Sources and updates, July 3

  • Report on race and ethnicity data collection: Researchers at Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research, who worked on collecting race and ethnicity data from states during the pandemic, have produced a report about the challenges of this work. I was a long-time volunteer for the COVID Tracking Project’s Racial Data Tracker, which became the first stage of a larger project for the BU center, and I’m glad to see this report highlight the issues with destandardized, incomplete data that I remember well.
  • Global impact of vaccines in 2021: In a new paper, published in The Lancet in late June, researchers at Imperial College London evaluate the lives saved by COVID-19 vaccines on a global scale during the first year that this technology was available. Vaccines prevented about 14 million COVID-19 deaths in 185 countries and territories, the researchers found. If global health initiatives like COVAX had met their goals, the lives saved could have been far greater.
  • COVID-19 spread from a cat: Scientists in Thailand have identified the first documented case of a human getting the coronavirus from a pet cat. In this case, the cat from a family going through isolation for COVID-19 infected a veterinarian who was caring for it; genetic analysis confirmed that three humans (father, son, and veterinarian) and the cat were infected with the same viral strain. While cases like this are likely rare, the documented transmission demonstrates why we need better tracking of COVID-19 in animals, as I noted last week.
  • Potential new approach for tracking variants: A new study in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, funded by the National Institutes of Health, presents the potential for monitoring coronavirus variants through a PCR testing-based approach. Compared to the techniques labs currently use to track variants—which involve sequencing an entire viral genome—this new approach would be faster, cheaper, and could be performed by more labs. The researchers are eager to share their work “as a public health tool,” they said in an NIH press release.

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