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A pharmacy student administering a coronavirus vaccine to another student at Florida International University on April 15 in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A Wall Street Journal piece on UnitedHealth's quarterly results shows a first-quarter profit that was better than expected.

Driving the news: That profit was driven in part by the fact that its COVID costs declined — and the company now expects to do better for the rest of the year too, the Journal reports.

Between the lines: It's a sign that the fight against the pandemic could lessen at least some cost pressures on health insurers, as long as Americans keep getting vaccinated and can avoid another huge spike in cases and hospitalizations.

  • But the progress against the pandemic may not lower insurers' costs across the board.
  • John Rex, UnitedHealth’s chief financial officer, said the company's medical costs probably will increase later in the year — because people will start getting all of those medical treatments they had put off during the pandemic.

Go deeper: The cost of the pandemic is catching up to health insurers

Go deeper

Apr 15, 2021 - Health

CDC: Vaccinated people can still get COVID-19, but it's very rare

CDC director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified about 5,800 fully vaccinated people who have contracted COVID-19 so far, a fraction of the 66 million Americans who have been vaccinated.

Why it matters: The infections, called "breakthrough cases," are rare. The findings are consistent with previous studies that indicate positive coronavirus cases are extremely unlikely among vaccinated people, and that the vaccines prevent severe disease.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Mix-and-matching gains momentum — Boosters overtake first doses in U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate Brazilian cityPanel endorses J&J booster.
  2. Health: Age is still a huge coronavirus risk factor — Unvaccinated 11x more likely to die from COVID — 5x more police officers died from COVID than guns.
  3. Politics: Over 30 states limited public health powers — Pope Francis calls on companies to release vaccine patents — Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Apr 15, 2021 - Health

Pfizer CEO: Booster shot "likely" needed within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated

Nils Buecheler, a sophomore at Barry University, receives a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine from Jason Rodriguez, a pharmacy student, at the Jackson Memorial Hospital on April 15 in Miami, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

People will "likely" need a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine as a booster within 12 months of being fully vaccinated, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Thursday.

Why it matters: COVID-19 vaccine boosters are expected to become a regular part of life for years to come, as variants continue to spread and become dominant strains in some countries.