Sources and updates, September 11

  • White House plans for annual boosters: This week, Biden administration officials announced a plan for one COVID-19 shot each year, on a similar timeline to the flu shots distributed every fall. In this plan, this fall’s Omicron-specific boosters are the first iteration of annual boosters. Some scientists are skeptical about the plan, given that (as I discussed last week) we have very little data on how well the new boosters work. It could be preemptive to say just one shot each year will be enough, and the federal government should also be investing in next-generation vaccines that might better prevent infection and transmission.
  • Urgency of Equity Toolkit: The People’s CDC, a health advocacy organization aiming to fill gaps in COVID-19 guidance left by the official CDC, has published a toolkit focused on school safety for the fall. The presentation walks readers through why public health measures are still needed in K-12 schools and potential layers of protection, such as improved ventilation, surveillance testing, and improving pediatric vaccination rates.
  • Parents and caregivers lost to COVID-19: Speaking of protecting children, a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics this week estimates how many children have lost parents or caregivers during the pandemic. The researchers (an international group including experts at the World Health Organization, World Health Organization, and others) produced their estimates based on global excess mortality data—going beyond deaths officially reported as COVID-19. In total, the study estimates about 10.5 million lost parents or caregivers and 7.5 million became orphans worldwide.
  • True virus prevalence during the BA.5 surge: I’ve previously cited the work of Denis Nash and his team at the City University of New York; they utilized a population survey to estimate how many New Yorkers actually got COVID-19 during the city’s spring surge. This week, the team shared a new study that uses the same approach for the whole country. While their sample size was fairly small (about 3,000 people) and the study has yet to be peer-reviewed, its findings are striking: about 17% of U.S. adults surveyed were infected by the coronavirus during a two-week period from late June to early July, around the peak of the BA.5 surge.
  • New independent effort to study Long COVID: This week, a group of researchers, clinicians, and patients announced the Long Covid Research Initiative, a new collaborative effort to study the condition and identify potential treatments. The group has raised $15 million in private funding and aims to move more quickly than public or academic efforts that have been bogged down in bureaucracy (among other challenges). I’m excited to see what this new group finds.

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