Sources and updates, March 27

  • New report on pandemic-related workplace violence for public health officials: A new study, published last week in the American Journal of Public Health, shares the results of a survey that included hundreds of public health officials across the U.S. During the study’s time frame (March 2020 to January 2021), the researchers identified about 1,500 instances of harassment against public health officials, and found that over 200 officials left their jobs. And public health has only become more polarized in the year since this survey period ended. See this article in STAT News for more context on the study.
  • Health insurance plans available through the federal insurance marketplace: This one isn’t directly COVID-related, but it seemed like an interesting data source to share: the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes a series of data files on health insurance plans available through the federal Health Insurance Exchange. The files include health benefits, coverage limits, cost-sharing potential, provider networks, anonymized insurance claims, and much more. (H/t Data Is Plural.)
  • At-home COVID-19 test use exacerbates inequities: This week, the CDC published a new MMWR study discussing rapid at-home test use. The authors used an online survey to estimate at-home test use among about 400,000 U.S. adults between August 2021 and early March 2022. Its findings provide additional evidence for the popularity of these tests during the Omicron surge, as well as for the way that these tests exacerbate health inequities in the U.S.: “at-home test use was lower among persons who self-identified as Black, were aged ≥75 years, had lower incomes, and had a high school level education or less,” the authors reported.
  • Considering another round of mRNA booster shots: Will the U.S. authorize a fourth round of shots for Americans who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines? At the moment, signs point to yes: countries like Israel and the U.K., which U.S. regulators watch for their vaccine efficacy data, are providing fourth doses to seniors. And the Biden administration is planning fourth doses for U.S. adults over age 50, the New York Times reported on Friday. Data so far suggest that these additional doses may be useful for older adults, but provide less of an immunity boost in younger age groups; Dr. Katelyn Jetelina’s Your Local Epidemiologist post on the subject provides a helpful overview of the evidence.
  • New data on Moderna vaccine for young children: As we consider additional boosters for seniors, the youngest Americans may soon be eligible for vaccination! Finally! After a lot of back-and-forth on the potential of Pfizer’s vaccine for kids under age five, Moderna released data this week suggesting that the company has found a dosage of its vaccine that significantly reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms for children between six months and six years old. Effectiveness against any symptomatic coronavirus infection was only about 40% in this trial—but that result is in line with vaccine efficacy for adults during the Omicron wave, when Moderna’s trial was conducted.

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