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The Executive Briefing - Friday, December 16th

Vaccine fatigue, plus measles, cholera, and severe strep on the rise…


  • Only about a quarter of Americans say they’re taking steps to avoid COVID or the flu. (Axios)
  • Free COVID tests are back for the winter at CovidTests.gov, as part of the White House’s winter COVID plan, which also includes funding for state vaccination campaigns and community health centers. (White House)
  • Long COVID has played a role in over 3,500 deaths. (CNN)
  • Catching COVID is still a very dangerous prospect for the more than 7 million people in the US who are immunocompromised. (LA Times)
  • New COVID cases among veterans have more than doubled in the past month. (SF Chronicle)
  • The FDA will meet in January to decide whether to update the primary dose of the COVID vaccine. (FDA)
  • Dead bodies may spread the coronavirus. (NY Times)
  • Philadelphia schools will have kids wear masks for the two weeks after they return from winter break, hoping to curb the spread of COVID, flu, and other respiratory illnesses. (WHYY)
  • Parents of students with disabilities won the legal right to require teachers and students to wear masks to protect their vulnerable kids from COVID. (Washington Post)
  • People who skipped their COVID vaccine are at higher risk for traffic accidents. (Fortune)

Public Health News:

  • The CDC warned that there have been availability issues for the flu antiviral, Tamiflu, among a spike in flu cases, with at least 13 million so far this season. (CDC)
  • “Vaccine fatigue” has led to very low flu shot uptake, leaving many unprotected in a bad flu season. (CNN)
  • Severe strep has made it to the US and appears to be circulating in children’s hospitals. This comes after at least 15 kids have died in the UK from invasive group A strep. (NBC)
  • The French World Cup soccer team has players sick with flu-like symptoms ahead of the final match on Sunday. (ESPN)
  • A new mRNA vaccine has been shown to be effective against melanoma in a new study. (Washington Post)
  • The Ohio measles outbreak has jumped to 74 cases, many in kids whose parents have chosen not to vaccinate them. (MedPage Today)
  • Teachers aren’t taking sick days despite the rise in flu, RSV, and COVID. (The 19th)
  • Global emergency stockpiles of the cholera vaccine are completely exhausted. (Reuters)
  • Hundreds of prisoners each year are dying of Hep C, even though there’s a simple treatment in a once daily pill. (STAT)

Mental Health News:

  • Loneliness can affect physical and mental health. Project Unlonely uses creative arts to help. (PBS)
  • The NYC District Attorney’s office will fund mental health care for those arrested in Manhattan. (NY Times)
  • The First Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff, toured a Maryland 988 crisis call center to raise awareness about the support that is available for those struggling. (CBS)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

Is the flu peaking or will it get worse over the holidays?

Normally, the flu peaks after the holidays, when people travel and gather which creates more opportunities for the virus to spread. Because the flu started so early this year, some experts think it might already be close to peaking in the next week or two, but even those that predict an earlier peak understand that waves of flu will continue to spread throughout the country through the rest of the winter. Ultimately, we think that it’s more likely that flu continues at relatively high levels through mid-January, and then continues with peaks and valleys through March.

What’s causing such low COVID booster and flu shot uptake?

The Kaiser Family Foundation does consistent polling about vaccination attitudes and uptake. They’ve found in their most recent survey that, particularly for vaccinated Republicans, almost two thirds of those asked were skeptical of the value of an updated booster and didn’t think they needed it. For vaccinated Democrats, most who weren’t boosted said that they just haven’t had the time. And, as surveys have found repeatedly, people of color are more concerned about the pandemic than White adults. Interestingly, while only about a third of people are worried that they themselves will get seriously sick, nearly half of those interviewed were worried about an increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations this winter. That information may help if you’re thinking about how to craft messaging that encourages people to go get the updated booster.

What messaging should we use to encourage booster uptake before the holidays?

Based on the KFF study we mentioned above, here’s our best bet on messaging that might hit home:

  • It’s not too late to get the updated booster to help protect yourself and your loved ones at the holidays. If you’ve been putting it off, now is the time.
  • The new updated boosters will keep you out of the hospital if you get sick, which is crucial since 80% of hospital beds across the country are filled right now with people sick with flu, RSV, and COVID.

I have cold symptoms but tested negative. Can I work with a mask?

Unfortunately, if you have multiple cold symptoms and tested negative, you may still have flu or COVID. You should test for COVID again 48 hours after the first rapid antigen test, since you can develop symptoms before there’s enough viral particles in your nose to test positive on a test, especially with Omicron and in people who are vaccinated. But if you have symptoms, you can be contagious, so you should stay home, even if the rapid test was negative.

Best Read:

What happens when the COVID national emergency ends - Axios

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.