What We’re Reading: Pfizer Efficacy Against Omicron; Congress Plan to Lift Debt Ceiling; COVID-19 Impact on Mental Health Crisis

Antibodies produced by vaccinated people may be less successful at fighting against Omicron compared with other variants; Congressional leaders created a plan to lift the debt limit with only Democratic votes in the Senate, staving off Medicare cuts; cases of depression and anxiety among youths both doubled during the pandemic.

Study Shows Pfizer Vaccine Provides Some Protection Against Omicron Variant

According to an early study from South Africa, the Omicron variant is dulling the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine, but people who have received a booster shot may be better protected. As reported by The New York Times, antibodies produced by vaccinated people were much less successful at fighting against Omicron compared with other variants of COVID-19. Scientists have said this is no cause for panic, especially because this study only covers antibodies and not the whole immune response. This also means the findings do not offer a full picture of how vaccines work to prevent Omicron-related hospitalizations or death.

Congress Creates Plan to Lift Debt Limit and Delay Medicare Cuts

Congressional leaders created a plan to lift the debt limit with only Democratic votes in the Senate, according to NBC News. The plan is a product of negotiations between Senators Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and includes multiple steps that would resolve the debt limit standoff and delay automatic Medicare cuts. It will require 60 votes to pass the Senate, giving the Senate 1-time authority through mid-January to lift the debt limit with a majority vote. If passed by Congress and signed into law, the measure would enable the debt ceiling to be lifted quickly with only Democratic votes and no filibuster in the Senate.

Surgeon General Says Pandemic Worsened Youth Mental Health Crisis

The US surgeon general said the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the mental health crisis among children, adolescents, and young adults in the nation, The Washington Post reported. In early 2021, emergency department visits for suicide attempts increased 51% for adolescent girls and 4% for adolescent boys compared with 2019. Cases of depression and anxiety both doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youths experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 7 people aged 10 to 19 years experiences a mental disorder. The surgeon general’s advisory encouraged more mental health resources and a greater acknowledgment of mental health’s role in overall health.