Sources and updates, April 23

  • External review of the CDC: The People’s CDC, a group of public health experts, scientists, and educators dedicated to advocating for increased COVID-19 precautions, released a new report reviewing the federal CDC’s actins during the pandemic. The report incorporates feedback from a survey of almost 500 experts and from over 200 reports. Overall, the People’s CDC “found that the CDC has prioritized individual choice and short-term business interests over sharing accurate scientific evidence with the public and protecting population health.” (Disclaimer: I was one of the experts surveyed for this report!)
  • Use of This new paper, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), reports on how Americans used, the USPS/HHS effort to distribute free at-home tests. Since the site’s launch in January 2022, about one in three U.S. households received a test kit from this program, the research team found. They also found that this program may have helped improve equity in COVID-19 test access, as Black and white Americans utilized the free tests at similar rates. Of course, the program has been discontinued as of this spring.
  • Impact of racial discrimination on vaccination: Speaking of health equity: another report published in MMWR this week shares a correlation between discrimination and vaccination status. Researchers at the CDC and their collaborators analyzed data from the CDC’s National Immunization Survey, including about 1.2 million survey results from April 2021 through November 2022. Among the respondents, people who reported experiencing racial or ethnic discrimination in a healthcare setting were less likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The findings confirm many health experts’ equity concerns from early in the vaccine rollout.
  • Declining childhood vaccinations worldwide: Vaccine equity is a concern on the global scale, too. A new report from UNICEF shows that 67 million children worldwide missed at least one vaccination between 2019 and 2021, as healthcare systems were strained. The report also presents new data on global confidence in childhood vaccines: in some countries, this confidence has dropped by up to 44 percentage points. Vaccine confidence only improved in three countries (China, India, and Mexico). “The threat of vaccine hesitancy may be growing,” UNICEF warns.
  • Healthcare workers present while sick: One more paper that caught my attention this week: researchers at the Veterans Affairs healthcare system in Boston tracked a cohort of about 4,000 healthcare workers between December 2020 and September 2021. In addition to PCR testing, the workers conducted daily COVID-19 symptom reviews, and received guidance to stay home or leave work if they didn’t feel well. But the researchers found that many workers didn’t actually stay home: among 255 workers who had symptomatic COVID-19 during the study period, almost half reported that they were present, at work, at the time they received a positive test result. The paper indicates why it’s important to keep masks in healthcare settings, even when community cases are lower.

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