Tag Archives: COVID-19

How to cover the 2021-2022 flu season

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo courtesy of the CDC

As it does every fall, the CDC is urging Americans to get their annual flu shot. Last year, flu was rare because Americans stayed home and wore masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This lack of flu from 2020 to 2021 (flu season generally occurs between October and May) could mean a potentially severe season this coming winter, CDC director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H, said.

“When there is an active flu season one year to another, then we have…some protective immunity from the season prior,” Walensky said at the Oct. 7 flu season media briefing co-hosted by the CDC and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and several health providers. “We do not have a lot of protective immunity from last season and because of that, we are worried” about the most vulnerable populations including children, pregnant people and those 65 and older.

Last year, public health officials warned of a “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and the flu, but the worst of their fears did not materialize. Public health experts believe behavior restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (i.e., social distancing, mask-wearing and online learning in schools) also prevented the spread of the flu. This year, with many of the COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the public health community is bracing for a surge.

Public health officials are concerned that possibly because of vaccine fatigue, 44% of Americans were either unsure or didn’t plan to get vaccinated against the flu, and 25% of them are at high risk from flu complications, according to this NFID survey.

“Frankly, we are alarmed by the large number of people who said they won’t get vaccinated,” said William Schaffner, M.D., NFID’s medical director and professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

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How to report on COVID-19 vaccines for kids: an update and expert contacts

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo by CDC via Unsplash

Last week Pfizer and BioNTech announced promising safety and effectiveness data for use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, setting a potential path for ending the pandemic.

“It won’t be a silver bullet, but [vaccines for kids] will be a step in the right direction,” Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, wrote in her newsletter called “Your Local Epidemiologist.”

On Sept. 20, the companies said a trial of 2,268 children ages 5 to 11, showed a “robust” neutralizing antibody response, using a 2-dose regimen, administered 3 weeks apart. The dose of the vaccine was lower (10 micrograms) than what is given to those 12 and older (30 micrograms) because it produced fewer side effects and still resulted in a strong immune response. Continue reading

Keeping up with context via the latest data on the delta variant

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo by Gilbert Mercier via Flickr

In the past month, there have been a growing number of U.S. studies showing that because of the SARS-CoV-2 delta variant, COVID-19 vaccines aren’t as effective in preventing infection as they were with the original 2020 coronavirus strain. But the data still show they are strongly protective against hospitalization and death.

The significance is that the studies were conducted in the U.S. Last month, the CDC changed its indoor mask mandate recommendations for fully vaccinated people as initial studies, mostly from other countries, had begun showing that with the delta variant, COVID-19 vaccines weren’t as effective in preventing infection as they were with the original strain. Continue reading

Costs are rising as health insurers require members to pay more for COVID-19 treatment

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform. He welcomes questions and suggestions and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Research shows 72% of large health insurers are now requiring members to share in the treatment costs for COVID-19

Source: Jared Ortaliza, Matthew Rae, Krutika Amin, Matthew McGough and Cynthia Cox, “Most private insurers are no longer waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment,” (KFF, Aug. 19, 2021), accessed Aug. 20, 2021. Reprinted with permission.Research shows 72% of large health insurers are now requiring members to share in the treatment costs for COVID-19

Here’s another bit of compelling information to share with your audience: New research shows that most health insurers are requiring their members to pay their deductibles, copayments and coinsurance (if any) for COVID-19 treatment.

Until late last year, almost all health insurers did not require their members to share in the cost of COVID-19 treatment, whether they were vaccinated or not.

In recent months, however, as vaccines have become widely available, commercial health insurers have changed their cost-sharing requirements for insured members needing treatment for COVID-19, according to research that KFF and the Peterson Center on Healthcare published recently. Continue reading

Building trust first helped journalist report on COVID-19 in prisons

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo by SoulRider.222 via Flickr.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on prison populations, where there have been almost 400,000 positive cases across the country and 2,700 inmates have died.

Lisa Armstrong has been delving into the spread of COVID-19 and its painful impact. She has been supported in her work through grants from Type Investigations, The Carter Center and the Fund for Investigative Journalism/Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. She has written about the spread of the coronavirus in New York state prisons and Miami jails and produced a documentary for CBS News about the role mental health care provided by for-profit companies has played in an increase in suicides in state prisons. Continue reading