Sources and updates, October 30

  • More detailed bivalent booster data: As of this week, the CDC is reporting some demographic data for the bivalent, Omicron-specific booster shots. The new data suggest that these boosters have had higher uptake among seniors, with about 11 million people over age 65 receiving a shot (compared to just 60,000 in the 5 to 11 age group). White and Asian Americans have higher booster rates than Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans, suggesting that the new doses are following a similar equity pattern to what we’ve seen with prior vaccines.
  • COVID-19 mortality by occupation: A new report by the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System provides a rare area of data we don’t usually get in the U.S.: occupational data. CDC researchers used mortality data from 46 states and New York City to examine risk of death by occupation. People working in protective services, accommodation and food services, and other essential jobs that couldn’t be done remotely had the highest death rates—confirming what many public health experts have suspected throughout the pandemic.
  • Life expectancy changes during the pandemic: A new study published in Nature, by researchers at the University of Oxford and other European institutions, estimated how life expectancy changed in 29 countries since the start of the pandemic. After a universal life expectancy decline in 2020, the researchers found, some western European countries “bounced back” in 2021 while the U.S. and eastern European countries did not. The results show the impacts of lower vaccination uptake in the U.S., particularly among younger adults.
  • Disparities in Paxlovid prescriptions: Another CDC study that caught my attention this week was this analysis in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), describing racial and ethnic disparities in prescriptions of Paxlovid—the antiviral COVID-19 treatment which reduces risk of severe symptoms. Between April and July 2022, the researchers found, the share of COVID-19 patients over age 20 who received a Paxlovid prescription was 36% lower among Black patients than among White patients, and 30% lower among Hispanic patients. More work is needed to make Paxlovid availability more equitable.
  • New estimates of Long COVID prevalence: One more notable paper published this week: researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard, and collaborators conducted an online survey of about 16,000 U.S. adults who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two months. Of those survey respondents, 15% reported current symptoms of Long COVID. The survey found that older adults and women were more likely to report Long COVID, while those who were fully vaccinated prior to infection had a somewhat lower risk of long-term symptoms. All of these findings are in line with results from other studies, but it’s helpful to see continued validation of these known trends.

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