U.S. moves to approve booster shots despite minimal evidence

This week, the federal government announced that the U.S. intends to provide third vaccine doses to all Americans who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. This booster shot distribution will start in September, with adults becoming eligible once they hit eight months after their second shot. Many epidemiologists, vaccine experts, global health experts, and other scientists have criticized the decision.

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Breakthrough case reporting: Once again, outside researchers do the CDC’s job

Now, Delta is causing the vast majority of cases—and the CDC still isn’t reporting on non-severe breakthroughs. As a result, entities outside the federal government are once again compiling data from states in order to fill in gaps left by the national public health agency. On Friday, both Bloomberg and NBC published breakthrough case analyses.

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Unpacking Delta numbers from this week’s headlines

It’s no surprise that Delta (B.1.617.2) is bad news. From the moment it was identified in India, this variant has been linked to rapid transmission and rapid case rises, even in areas where the vaccination rates are high. This week, however, the CDC’s changed mask guidance—combined with new reports on breakthrough cases associated with Delta—has triggered widespread conversation about precisely how much damage this variant can do.

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Moderna for the middle children

Good news for kids hoping for jabs in arms: Moderna has announced promising results for its trial in adolescent-aged children. In around 4,000 adolescents, the vaccine proved to be 94.1% effective in preventing disease. No cases in the vaccinated group were found two weeks after the second shot, while 4 cases were found in the unvaccinated control group.

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Pfizer for the whole pfamily (now CDC-verified!)

In case you missed it amidst the mask discourse: Pfizer was already the “vaccine for cool people,” but this week, it formally became the vaccine for teens. The FDA announced on Monday that it was expanding the Emergency Use Authorization for this vaccine to include children ages 12 to 15, and the CDC followed this up with an official recommendation on Wednesday. The CDC has begun updating its vaccination dashboard with information on this age group.

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The data behind the CDC’s new mask guidance

This past Thursday, the CDC announced that, if you are fully vaccinated, the pandemic is basically over for you. This post goes over the CDC’s evidence for its guidance, taking the epidemiological perspective. Also, as two-thirds of Americans aren’t yet fully vaccinated, I’ll touch on another COVID-19 truism that has garnered some confusion lately: yes, you are significantly safer outside than you are inside.

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