Public health data in the US is “incredibly fragmented”: Zoe McLaren on booster shots and more

This week, I had a new story published at the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight. The story explores the U.S.’s failure to comprehensively track breakthrough cases, and how that failure has led officials to look towards data from other countries with better tracking systems as they make decisions about booster shots. In the CDD, I’m sharing one of the interviews I did for that story.

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Unpacking Delta AY.4.2: Are we prepared for the next variant?

Recently, a new offshoot of the Delta variant has been gaining ground in the U.K. It’s called AY.4.2, and it appears to be slightly more transmissible than Delta itself. While experts say this variant doesn’t differ enough from Delta to pose a serious concern, I think it’s worth exploring what we know about it so far—and what this means for the future of coronavirus mutation.

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Booster shots: What we’ve learned—and what we still don’t know

This week, the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee had a two-day meeting to discuss booster shots for Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccines. From the outside, these meetings may have appeared fairly straightforward: the committee voted unanimously to recommend booster shots for both vaccines. But in fact, the discussions on both days were wide-reaching and full of questions, touching on the many continued gaps in our knowledge about the need for additional vaccine doses.

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New study demonstrates potential for measuring breakthrough risk

Adults with substance use disorders have an increased risk of breakthrough cases, according to a new study published this week in the journal World Psychiatry. Though the chances of a COVID-19 case after vaccination were very low in this group, these patients’ odds of a breakthrough case were about twice as high as the odds for adults without substance use disorders, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found.

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The data problem underlying booster shot confusion

Why has the booster shot decision-making process been so confusing? Why don’t the experts agree on whether booster shots are necessary, or on who should get these extra shots? From my (data journalist’s) perspective, the booster shot confusion largely stems from a lack of data on breakthrough cases.

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