What’s Holding Up New Omicron Vaccines?

With COVID-19 mutating rapidly, vaccine makers have tested a number of variant-specific vaccines, yet none of these have come close to authorization. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC), spoke to why we haven’t seen variant specific vaccines authorized, noting it takes four to six months to generate new batches of variant-specific vaccine for distribution and that new variants can emerge and flame out in that timeline.

N95 Masks Can Be Decontaminated at Least 25 Times, Study Shows

A study published last week in the American Journal of Infection Control found that some N95 masks can be safely cleaned and recycled several times without losing their effectiveness. The study was conducted by researchers from BIDMC and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From skiing to shopping to testing, here’s what you need to know to stay safe during Omicron

As Omicron continues to be responsible for nearly all new COVID-19 infections in Massachusetts, experts shared advice on how people can apply the latest news about Omicron to their daily life. Jason Maley, MD (Pulmonary Disease, BIDMC), discussed whether people can get long COVID if vaccinated and boosted.

What to know about ‘flurona’

Amid a new pandemic surge, experts stress that “flurona” – a term coined to describe what happens when a person tests positive for the flu and COVID-19 at the same time – is not a new disease or a new variant of COVID-19. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) said both [flu and COVID-19] are common and it is not unexpected that some people would be infected at the same time.

Closing schools won’t stop omicron. It’ll just hurt kids.

In this opinion piece, Westyn Branch-Elliman, MD (Infectious Disease, BIDMC) and other infectious disease experts discuss how moving to remote learning is an approach rooted in misunderstandings about how viruses spread and a refusal to acknowledge what has been learned two years into the coronavirus pandemic – evidence shows closing schools is not an effective way to contain the virus and is, in fact, harmful to children and how there are better ways of keeping the community safe than taking in-school learning away from children.

Omicron could peak in U.S. fairly soon. Maybe.

Based on the quick rise and precipitous drop of Omicron in South Africa, Harvard experts are cautiously hopeful about a possible decline of the surging COVID variant in the very near future, even as they warn of dramatic case spikes, overloaded hospitals, and slowly rising deaths in the interim. During a media call Tuesday, coronavirus experts at MassCPR, including Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC), discussed how important key questions remain unanswered and that the experience in South Africa — whose population is much younger than that of the U.S. — may not be mirrored here.

Should I Just Get Omicron Over With?

Ai-ris Yonekura Collier, MD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) discussed how a single SARS-CoV-2 infection isn’t enough to keep someone safe long-term. But layered on top of vaccination, Collier explained an infection can coax out “almost what you would call a boosted response.”

Soaring Omicron Threatens Hospitals, Rivaling 2020 Pandemic Peak

Though the Omicron variant tends to be milder, it is spreading so explosively across the U.S. that many hospitals expect it to rival or surpass previous records for admitting COVID patients. In Boston, two major hospitals, including BIDMC, project that their load of COVID patients could well reach the heights of last winter’s surge in coming weeks. Jennifer Stevens, MD (Critical Care Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, BIDMC), who leads modeling for BIDMC, said hospitalization rates are challenging everyone in health care in a way not seen before.

Drugstore rapid tests predict infectiousness; breakthrough risk serious in cancer patients

A report from BIDMC researchers posted on medRxiv ahead of peer review, examined drugstore rapid COVID-19 tests and PCR tests, finding the rapid test might yield a negative result in 15 minutes while failing to detect virus particles but those same particles might pose no risk of transmission in the very short term. James E. Kirby, MD (Clinical Microbiology, BIDMC) said people with low viral loads and negative antigen tests may become infectious a day or two or three days later, therefore, to be most effective, antigen tests should be used immediately before an event or contact with those at greater risk from infection.