Sources and updates, February 5

  • CDC warns of risk to immunocompromised people: As of January 2023, there are no longer any monoclonal antibody treatments available for COVID-19, as these treatments do not provide protection against recent versions of Omicron. The no-longer-effective treatments include Evusheld, a drug used as a protective measure (to reduce risk of symptomatic COVID-19 for immunocompromised people. With Evusheld now unavailable, the CDC issued recommendations last week for people who have severely compromised immune systems. Of course, the CDC’s recommendations are largely targeted to individual action; to actually protet this vulnerable group, all Americans would need to follow collective public health measures.
  • Modeling COVID-19 as a persistent “endemic“: A recent preprint, from researchers at the drug company Fractal Therapeutics and collaborators, estimates just how challenging it is for people to avoid COVID-19 when the disease is not managed at a societal level. The researchers estimated Americans’ long-term COVID-19 risk based on an epidemiological model incorporating frequent reinfections, and limited individual-level protections. People who are vaccinated but don’t take other measures to reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 “can expect to spend an average of 6 days a year acutely sick with COVID-19 and also incur a 12% risk of long COVID (symptoms lasting more than 3 months),” the researchers write.
  • Global COVID-19 vaccination rate: Another new study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, provides an update on global vaccination rates, calculated by researchers at the World Health Organization. According to the WHO team, about 76% of older adults (ages 60 and older) have received a primary series of COVID-19 vaccines. (The study doesn’t report on booster rates, which are likely much lower worldwide.) As the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths worldwide have occurred among this age group, it should be a priority for vaccination, including the primary series and booster doses.
  • COVID-19 litigation database: I recently learned about this database of COVID-related legal documents, run by researchers at the University of Trento in Italy. The database aims to publish case documents from around the world reflecting challenges to COVID-19 policies. As of February 4, it includes documents from 1,978 cases, which can be searched by country, year, type of human rights issue, vulnerable group involved, and more.
  • Flu vaccine works well this year: A bit of non-COVID good news: this season’s flu vaccine is well-matched to the flu strain currently circulating in North America, according to a recent study from Canadian researchers and public health officials. Receiving a flu shot halved an individual’s risk of a severe flu case that needed medical care, the study found. Flu shots often have an effectiveness below 40%, explained STAT’s Helen Branswell on Twitter, as the vaccines do not always perfectly match up to circulating viral strains. But this year, the shot appears to be working well.
  • NYC declares end of mpox epidemic: And one more bit of good news: New York City officials have declared that the city’s epidemic of mpox (formerly called monkeypox) is now over. The city was a hub for mpox transmission last summer and became a center of the U.S. outbreak; but NYC has reported low case numbers since early fall. The federal public health emergency for mpox also recently ended.

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