Sources and updates, December 11

  • 2022 America’s Health Rankings released: This week, the United Health Foundation released its 2022 edition of America’s Health Rankings, a comprehensive report providing data for more than 80 different health metrics at national and state levels. The 2022 report includes new metrics tailored to show COVID-related disparities; for example, Black and Hispanic Americans had higher rates of losing friends and family members to COVID-19 compared to other groups. I’ve used data from past iterations of this report in stories before, and I’m looking forward to digging into the 2022 edition.
  • FDA authorizes bivalent boosters for young kids: This week, the FDA revised the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) of both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s updated, Omicron-specific booster shots to include children between six months and five years old. Kids who previously got two shots of Moderna’s vaccine for this age group can receive a bivalent booster two months later, while kids who got two shots of Pfizer’s vaccine can receive a bivalent booster as their third dose. (Remember, Pfizer’s vaccine for this age group includes three doses.) The updated EUAs will help protect young children from Omicron infection, though uptake will likely be low.
  • CDC updates breakthrough case data: Speaking of the updated boosters: the CDC recently added data on these shots to its analysis of COVID-19 cases and deaths by vaccination status. In September, people who had received a bivalent, Omicron-specific boosters had a 15 times lower risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to unvaccinated people; and in October, bivalent-boosted people had a three times lower risk of testing positive compared to the unvaccinated. The CDC will update these data on a monthly basis.
  • Director Walensky discusses authority challenges: One bit of coverage from the Milken Future of Health Summit that caught my attention: CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky talked about the agency’s limitations in collecting data from states, reports Rachel Cohrs at STAT News. Walensky specifically highlighted the challenges that the CDC might face in collecting data when the public health emergency for COVID-19 ends, something I’ve previously covered in this publication.
  • Boston establishes neighborhood-level wastewater testing: Finally, one bit of wastewater surveillance news: the city of Boston is setting up 11 new sites to test wastewater, giving local public health officials more granular information about how COVID-19 is spreading in the region. The new initiative is a partnership with Biobot Analytics, the same wastewater testing company that has long worked with Boston, the CDC, and public health institutions across the country. (Boston was one of the first cities to start doing this testing.) Also, speaking of Biobot: the company just added a nice chart of coronavirus variants in U.S. wastewater over time to its dashboard.

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