What We’re Reading: Omicron-Specific Vaccine Trials; Health Insurance Enrollment Gains; Public Nursing Home Staffing Data

Pfizer and Moderna announced commencement of trials for Omicron-specific booster shots; 14.5 million Americans gained health coverage since November 2021; Medicare’s website for consumers to research nursing home staffing is up and running.

Pfizer, Moderna Begin Trials for Omicron-Specific Boosters

Moderna has begun testing a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine specifically designed to fight off the Omicron variant, as reported by The New York Times. The news comes just 1 day after Pfizer and BioNTech announced the start of a trial for their Omicron-specific dose. Moderna also shared results from a small laboratory study that suggests the protection against Omicron infection provided by their authorized booster shot will likely fade 6-fold over the course of 6 months. Although Omicron seems to evade the antibodies created as a result of receiving the authorized vaccines, causing breakthrough cases to rise, the vaccines still provide significant protection against hospitalization and death.

14.5 Million Americans Signed Up for Health Insurance

According to a report from Reuters, 14.5 million Americans signed up for health insurance since November 1, 2021. The increased enrollment largely is due to the passage of the Biden administration’s pandemic relief package and the reopening of an online health insurance marketplace in 2021. Of the 14.5 million, 10 million of those people enrolled through HealthCare.gov during the open enrollment period, which President Biden claimed is the highest number of people to ever sign up during open enrollment. The president announced that 1 in 7 uninsured Americans received coverage between the end of 2020 and September 2021, with lower-income people gaining coverage at the fastest rate.

Medicare Shares Nursing Home Staffing Information

Medicare’s website for consumers to research nursing home facilities is now available to the public and will provide information on staff turnover and weekend nurse coverage, according to the Associated Press. The website dubbed “Care Compare” comes as COVID-19 cases and death rates at nursing homes begin to rise again, despite the Biden administration increasing efforts to vaccinate residents and staff. Additionally, major upgrades of federal requirements for nursing home staffing are stalled in Congress along with President Biden’s other social and climate legislation. CMS said that it researched links between staff turnover and quality of care, finding that as turnover decreased, the overall quality of care went up.