Sources and updates, November 20

  • CDC update on COVID-19 mortality trends: This week, the CDC published a detailed report about how deaths from COVID-19 have changed in 2022. Overall, between 2,000 and 4,500 COVID-19 deaths were reported each week between April and September 2022, the CDC researchers found; this is lower than at earlier points in the pandemic, but still represents a loss of more than 100,000 Americans over the course of a year. Older adults and those who were un- or under-vaccinated had a higher risk of death from COVID-19, the researchers found; racial and ethnic disparities have “decreased, but persisted.”
  • Moderna reports new data on its bivalent booster: Several studies in the last couple of weeks have indicated that the new, Omicron-specific boosters from Pfizer and Moderna are more effective against new variants than the older vaccines. Moderna provided additional data this week, reporting that its new booster led to five times more antibodies that neutralize Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 compared to earlier booster shots. While Moderna’s study hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, the results are promising in following a trend from past studies, STAT’s Matthew Herper reports.
  • Booster shots could keep kids from missing school: Speaking of the new boosters: a new report from the Commonwealth Fund provides analysis of the boosters’ potential impact on school-aged children, as all kids older than five are eligible for the shots. If 80% of eligible Americans receive their bivalent boosters by the end of 2022, the report suggests, this could save over 46 million days of isolation and over 50,000 hospitalizations for school-aged children, along with other benefits. Even getting kids boosted at the level of flu vaccination in 2020-2021 would prevent millions of days of school from being lost.
  • Test to treat is inaccessible to rural Americans: A new study, published this week in JAMA Network Open, examined equity issues with the Biden administration’s Test to Treat initiative. The initiative was designed to provide locations where Americans could get a COVID-19 test and then, if they received a positive result, quickly receive a free antiviral drug. But many people don’t live near available locations, the researchers found: “approximately 15% of the overall US population, 30% of American Indian or Alaskan Native people, and 59% of the rural population lived more than 60 minutes from the nearest site,” they write.
  • Perception of local COVID-19 levels: A lot of people are acting with incorrect knowledge of their local COVID-19 risk, a new study in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report suggests. Researchers from several medical and public health institutions surveyed people who had recently tested positive for COVID-19 in Detroit, Michigan and DuPage County, Illinois, during June and July, 2022. About half of the 5,000 people surveyed said that they thought local COVID-19 transmission was “low or moderate,” even though it was actually at high levels in both places.

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