Sources and updates, May 21

  • New funding from CDC’s forecasting center: The CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Analytics (CFA) announced a new funding opportunity for state and local health agencies to develop new disease modeling tools. CFA is a relatively new center itself; it launched last year with the goal of modernizing the U.S.’s disease forecasting capacities (see my FiveThirtyEight article about the center for more details). This funding opportunity will, I expect, enable the CFA’s growing staff to work directly with health agencies on advancing analytical methods. I look forward to seeing the results of those projects.
  • Experts argue to keep masks in healthcare: A new commentary article, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, argues in favor of keeping mask requirements in healthcare settings. The experts (from the National Institutes of Health and George Washington University) point to real-world experience, suggesting transmission between patients and healthcare workers is less likely when everyone is wearing a mask, preferably one of high quality. This article coincides with an advocacy campaign to keep masks in healthcare, including virtual and in-person actions across the U.S.
  • CDC releases provisional drug overdose data for 2022: The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics has released overdose data for 2022, reporting that nearly 110,000 Americans died of overdoses for the second year in a row. Overdoses have leveled off from 2021, but the 2022 data still represent a sharp increase from pre-pandemic trends. Some states in the South and West Coast (such as Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Washington) saw the sharpest increases from 2021 to 2022, according to the CDC. These data are all preliminary and will be updated later in the year.
  • Pediatric COVID-19 boosters could save school days: A new modeling study, published this week in JAMA Network Open, suggests that the U.S. could have seen about 10,000 fewer kids hospitalized with COVID-19 and 5.5 million fewer school days lost during the 2022-2023 respiratory virus season, if kids received booster shots in large numbers. The researchers arrived at these estimates through a model that simulated COVID-19 booster vaccination rates at similar levels to annual flu vaccination in kids. Future booster campaigns should focus on children in addition to older adults, the authors argue.
  • RSV vaccine for infants moves ahead: Speaking of pediatric vaccinations: the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee met last week to discuss a new vaccine candidate from Pfizer, which would protect infants from RSV. Unlike most pediatric vaccines, this shot would be delivered to pregnant parents in order to protect their babies at birth. While the FDA’s advisors endorsed the vaccine for its effectiveness, some committee members expressed concerns over safety. Helen Branswell at STAT has more details.

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