Sources and updates, April 3

  • Feds unveil new website: This week, the federal government launched a new website,, intended to be a one-stop-shop for Americans to find COVID-19 guidance and connect to resources in their communities. It’s a fun kind of irony that this is launching over two years into the pandemic, at a time when the U.S. is about to lose funding for free vaccines, tests, and other health measures. One wonders how many people will actually use this website!
  • FDA and CDC authorize additional booster shots for seniors: This past Tuesday, the FDA authorized a fourth dose for Americans over age 50 who received their booster of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine at least four months ago. The CDC incorporated this additional dose into their recommendations later that day; fourth doses are also recommended for immunocompromised people, and additional mRNA vaccine people who originally received two doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Notably, the FDA and CDC decisions come before an FDA advisory committee meeting, scheduled for this coming Wednesday, about booster shots. Not a great look for either agency’s transparency.
  • New data on Johnson & Johnson vaccine effectiveness: When the CDC recommended that anyone who received two J&J doses should get a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine, the agency cited this study published last week in MMWR. CDC researchers and their collaborators found that, during the Omicron surge, vaccine effectiveness against a COVID-related hospitalization or emergency department visit was much higher for J&J recipients who got a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine (90% for hospitalization, 79% for ED visit) compared to those who received two J&J doses (67% and 54%).
  • Racial disparities in COVID-19 patients with cancer: Another new study, published this week in JAMA Network Open, found that Black COVID-19 patients with cancer are more likely to experience severe outcomes than white patients—even after the scientists adjusted for other demographic and clinical factors. Black cancer patients already have higher mortality rates than white patients, the scientists explain in their paper; COVID-19 worsened this existing inequality.
  • NYC mask compliance: I recently learned that the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) regularly publishes data demonstrating how well passengers on MTA subways and buses are complying with the city’s mask requirement for public transportation. The data are compiled from surveys; MTA workers observe passengers at a selection of subway and bus stops, and count how many people are wearing masks (categorized by whether the masks are worn correctly or not). Compliance recently slipped to a new low, AMNY reports.
  • Database of WHO disease outbreak reports: A group of researchers led by Colin J. Carlson has compiled a database of over 2,700 outbreak reports from the World Health Organization, which include information on significant public health events (or “potential events of concern”) going back to December 1996. You can read a preprint with analysis of the database here. (H/t Data Is Plural.)

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