Sources and updates, December 4

  • CDC awards $3 billion to improve public health infrastructure: The CDC announced this week that it has awarded state and local public health agencies a total of $3.2 billion to support hiring and training new workers, along with other infrastructure needs. The agency published a breakdown of all the agencies that received awards, although it has not included specific details on what funds will be used for in each place. Local reporters, if your health department received funding, this might be worth looking into!
  • CDC expands wastewater testing for polio: Another notable CDC announcement this week: the agency is expanding its wastewater surveillance for polio to two new areas, Oakland County, Michigan and Philadelphia. Testing wastewater for polio is more complicated than testing it for the coronavirus, as STAT News’ Helen Branswell explains in this article; as a result, the CDC is expanding this surveillance in a more limited capacity than what it’s doing for other viruses, like monkeypox and the flu.
  • Majority of COVID-19 deaths are now among vaccinated people: A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation explains why more than 50% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. in recent months were among people who had received at least two vaccine doses. According to KFF, factors driving this trend include the rising share of Americans who are vaccinated, waning protection from initial doses, and low uptake of booster shots—particularly of the Omicron-specific boosters that provide better protection against newer variants. More reason to get the new booster if you haven’t yet!
  • Paid sick leave correlates with higher vaccination rates: Speaking of vaccination: a new study from researchers at Drexel University and Boston University found that large U.S. cities with city-wide paid sick leave policies had higher vaccination rates than those without such policies. The correlation was particularly evident in neighborhoods with higher social vulnerability, the researchers found. Expanding paid sick leave could help reduce inequities in vaccination coverage, the paper’s authors recommend.
  • No monoclonal antibody drugs are currently authorized in the U.S.: This week, the FDA announced that bebtelovimab, a monoclonal antibody made by Eli Lilly, is no longer authorized for COVID-19 treatments in the U.S. The drug was designed based on older versions of the Omicron variant and doesn’t perform well against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, the sublineages that are currently causing the majority of new cases in the U.S. As a result, no monoclonal antibodies are currently authorized, though Paxlovid and other treatments are still available.

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