Sources and updates, October 23

  • Genomic surveillance from international travelers: A new CDC dashboard page provides data from the agency’s program sequencing COVID-19 test samples from people arriving in the U.S. on international flights, aiming to identify and track new variants. This program—a partnership between the agency, Ginkgo Bioworks, and XpresSpa Group—started during the Delta wave in 2021 with flights from India, but has since expanded to include over 1,000 volunteers a week at four major airports. The CDC’s new page reports test positivity for travelers’ samples and variants detected through sequencing.
  • Implications of commercializing COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, tests: Researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed how the federal government’s decreasing support for key COVID-19 products (vaccines, treatments, and tests) could impact Americans’ access. The government’s supply of these products has been depleted through 2022, and researchers anticipate the national Public Health Emergency will end in early 2023. As a result, Americans will soon likely need to rely on commercial products, leading to major challenges for low-income and uninsured people. (I wrote more about data implications of the PHE ending here.)
  • Disparities in flu hospitalizations and vaccinations: Much COVID-19 coverage, including in this publication, has focused on inequitable vaccine uptake. In early 2021, more white Americans were getting vaccinated than minority groups, potentially contributing to higher rates of severe disease in those groups through the second year of the pandemic. A new CDC study in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) finds that a similar trend has occurred for flu over the last ten years: Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans had lower flu vaccine coverage than white Americans from 2009-10 through 2021-22 seasons, and the same groups had higher flu hospitalization rates. The study suggests equitable vaccination is a problem that goes beyond the pandemic.
  • Vaccine coverage among healthcare workers: Another CDC MMWR study that caught my attention this week provides results from a survey of healthcare workers, conducted in spring 2022. Among about 3,700 workers who responded to the survey, about four in five reported receiving a flu shot and two in three reported receiving a COVID-19 booster (during the 2021-22 flu season). Workers with vaccine mandates at their jobs had higher coverage than these averages, while long-term care workers had lower coverage. The results indicate more effort is needed to protect healthcare workers and their patients.
  • is revamped, newly available: In 2018, the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) first launched, a database of financial information on nonprofit hospitals pulling from 990 tax forms. The site has been offline for the past year due to a hosting issue, but is now back thanks to researchers at the University of Missouri (which hosts AHCJ). While this resource isn’t specifically COVID-related, it could be useful to reporters investigating hospitals in their areas.

Leave a Reply