CDC Updates COVID-19 Vaccine Guidelines For Pfizer Vaccine Recipients

This past week, the CDC updated some of their vaccine guidelines, particularly regarding COVID-19 booster shots or additional doses. The biggest changes are that now, any adult over the age of 18 who has completed their initial vaccine series of Pfizer or Moderna is now recommended to get a booster shot 5 months after their initial vaccination series, not 6 months. Pfizer and Moderna continue to be recommended over Johnson & Johnson in most situations. 

For those 12-17 years of age, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is recommended for those who are 5 months after completing their initial series. This is the only COVID-19 vaccine so far that is approved for emergency use and recommended for a booster shot in those under 18. 

Finally, for some individuals 5-11 years of age, such as those who are immunocompromised, a third dose is recommended 28 days after their second dose to complete their initial vaccination series. Again, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for emergency use in this population thus far, and this applies to the additional dose as well. Also, an additional dose is not the same as a booster shot, thus an additional dose is required to be considered fully vaccinated. 

A quick infographic from the CDC can be found here.

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Explaining "Flurona"

"Flurona" is a term the media came up with (the term "twindemic" was more popular last year to describe the same thing) to describe situations where someone has both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. "Flurona" isn't something new, and isn't a mutation or combination of diseases. COVID-19 and influenza (commonly called "the flu" in the US) are two separate infections that a person can get, and some people end up with both at the same time. Fundamentally, it's no different than catching a cold and then eating some spoiled food while you're already sick, so you end up having a stomach virus at the same time that you have a cold. COVID-19 is very widespread, particularly due to the combination of the more transmissible Omicron variant and people failing to take proper precautions (like wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings, and getting vaccinated and boosted), and the flu is also an easily spread infection that's common at this time of year. Because COVID-19 and the flu are two separate diseases, you can't "catch" flurona - flurona it's just a term to describe having caught COVID-19 and the flu close enough in time that you're infected with both at the same time. So far, there have been very few reported cases where someone has had both infections at the same time, but given that both are transmitted in similar ways and people aren't taking proper precautions, it's likely that more people will end up experiencing "flurona." Preventing flurona is just a matter of preventing each disease, which is simple, given that they're spread in similar ways: For COVID-19, get vaccinated and boosted. For the flu, get a flu shot. For both, wear a mask in public, avoid large gatherings, avoid people who are sick, and wash your hands. Note that COVID-19 vaccinations don't provide any protection against the flu, and flu shots don't provide any protection against COVID-19, which is why you need to get both shots (and you can get them at the same time to save trouble)!

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New Data on California Police Discrimination

A new report from California's Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, part of the California Department of Justice, found that people perceived by officers to be trans are disproportionately arrested, handcuffed, searched, and detained by police in the state. The data also show significant disparities based on race and perceived disability status, but no intersectional data was provided, and gender, race/ethnicity, and disability were all presented independently in the report.

Arrest rates were highest for people perceived to be trans women or trans men, while people perceived to be cisgender were more likely to be let off with a warning or citation. Use of force was also more common against people perceived to be trans than against people perceived to be cis.

Arrest rates were also higher for people who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, or multiracial than people who are White, Asian, or Middle Eastern/South Asian. People perceived to have a disability were also more likely to be arrested.

Use of "less-lethal" or "limited" force was more common against people who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, or multiracial than people who are White, Asian, or Middle Eastern/South Asian. Use of lethal force was more common against people who are Black, Hispanic, or multiracial than any other groups. Use of force was also more common against people perceived or known to have a disability.

Police took actions like "asking someone to exit a vehicle, conducting a search, and handcuffing someone," far more often against people perceived to be trans: These types of actions were taken against 61.7% of people perceived to be trans women and 60% of people perceived to be trans men, but only against 28.7% of people perceived to be cisgender women and 42.8% of people perceived to be cisgender men. These actions were also taken against 32.6% of gender nonconforming people. People perceived to be trans women or trans men were around twice as likely to be handcuffed as others, and were also more likely to be searched or detained. Despite much higher search rates, the rates of police discovering contraband or evidence was nearly the same.

These types of actions were more likely to be taken against people who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, or multiracial than people who are White, Asian, or Middle Eastern/South Asian. People perceived or known to be disabled were far more likely to be searched, detained, or handcuffed than non-disabled people (74.4% vs. 18.4% overall).

The reason given by officers for stopping people was very different, as well. There are two main reasons given for stops: traffic violations and "reasonable suspicion," which combine to account for over 90% of police stops. For people perceived to be trans, "reasonable suspicion" was cited around twice as often as for people perceived to be cisgender. Police were more likely to say that the "reasonable suspicion" was because the person matched a suspicious description if the person was perceived to be trans or gender nonconforming.

"Reasonable suspicion" was also much more likely to be cited against Black people than other races and ethnicities.

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LGBTQ+ Jamaican Asylum Seekers Facing Racism and Homophobia 

There are roughly 30 Jamaican individuals who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community waiting in Tijuana, Mexico for asylum in the United States. There is a culture of discrimination and violence towards the LGBTQ+ community in Jamaica, which forces individuals to flee in order to stay safe. While asylum in the United States would still come with its own host of issues, it could be safer…if they are able to enter. The U.S. closed the borders to asylum seekers at the beginning of the pandemic and has not reopened them, except for a short-time this summer through a temporary program. Those who are left waiting in Tijuana are facing racism and homophobia while waiting for an unknown amount of time to see if their applications are approved. While waiting is not ideal, going back to Jamaica faces its own unsafety and the possibility of not being able to make the trip again. A coalition is helping the individuals stay in Airbnb homes, after facing racism in an LGBTQ+ shelter in the city. The United States allows asylum protection if someone may face persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but at this point the question is “will that protection happen?” A complaint about the unanswered applications by Customs and Border Patrol was sent to the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General earlier this year, but so far, nothing has been done. Leaving people with no answers or clarity after months on end is inhumane when the United States has the resources to help. 

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Recent SARS-CoV-2 Variant IHU Under Investigation, Not Variant of Concern Currently

In recent news, a new COVID-19 variant has been making headlines. The new variant, B.1.640.2, also termed IHU, was reportedly first found in France in 12 COVID-19 cases. In response, a World Health Organization (WHO) representative stated that this variant had been on the WHO’s radar and under investigation since around the same time the Omicron variant was discovered. Per the WHO, this variant has had multiple opportunities to spread but has not seemed to have done so widely, thus it is still under investigation rather than a “variant of concern” like the Delta and Omicron variants. It is important to note that while this variant has been monitored and is not of concern at the moment, it has made headlines particularly by a pre-print, non-peer reviewed paper involving Dr. Didier Raoult at the IHU Méditerranée Infection, which the variant is named after. Dr. Raoult became more well known recently, but was one of the primary reasons why hydroxychloroquine interest in treating COVID-19 was so prevalent earlier in the pandemic. More importantly, however, there are many organizations and professionals monitoring as many aspects of the pandemic as possible, so that we have the most up-to-date information possible. That being said, we can still continue to take preventative measures such as getting vaccinated or boosted, socially distance, wear masks, practice proper hand hygiene, and follow other public health measures to protect ourselves and others.

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U.S. COVID-19 Cases Near 1 Million Per Day

Daily COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in the U.S., with over 950,000 new cases on Monday alone, and over 830,000 on Friday. Prior to the current surge, the highest number of daily cases was one year ago (January 8, 2021), at 239,207 (only 25% of the numbers currently being witnessed). The trend is similarly bad in Michigan, with 18,282 confirmed cases on Monday. Until the current surge, daily confirmed cases had never topped 8,000 in Michigan.

The explosion in COVID-19 cases is critically impacting hospitals in Michigan. Detroit-area Beaumont Health reported a 40% increase in COVID-19 patients in the past week, of whom 62% are unvaccinated. 430 Beaumont employees were reported to be out sick with COVID-19 symptoms, further straining the system. Ann-Arbor's Michigan Medicine reported having more than 500 employees out because of positive COVID-19 tests, and are asking people who need COVID-19 testing not to come to emergency rooms. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing and McLaren Greater Lansing are both at 97% capacity.

Beaumont Health has taken out full-page ads in local newspapers stating “We’re at a breaking point” and personnel brought in from the U.S. military has had its term extended to continue to provide assistance at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn. They are urging people to get vaccinated, boosted, wear a mask, limit gatherings, practice social distancing, stay home if they're sick, and encourage friends and family to get vaccinated and follow safety precautions.

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Racism in January 6th Attack on Capitol

This week marked a year since a mob descended on the U.S. Capitol and went on a rampage. While the House-led committee looking into the attack is still collecting information and interviewing people, what can’t be left out are its roots in racism. Racism permeated this attack, as it permeates all aspects of our country. In the mob were white nationalists, homegrown militias, conspiracists, and other agitators. These individuals adorned flags and apparel with far-right symbols and slogans, including the Confederate flag. Racial slurs were hurled at Capitol Police Officers. Physical violence was also found all around, with police officers being met with punches, kicks, sprays of chemical irritants, lasers, and tasers. While these far-right groups supposedly support and are fighting to protect the United States, their view of who should be included in the country is largely limited to white individuals. There is a real fear in some white individuals in this country of becoming a minority or seeing BIPOC individuals in leadership positions. It can’t be ignored that those who showed up on January 6th were touting these symbols, slogans, and oppressive rhetoric - there are a significant number of Americans who believe in these and would go all-out to protect their values and beliefs. While the committee has interviewed 350 witnesses, received more than 45,000 documents, and issued more than 50 subpoenas, the question still lingers - what happens next? Will we see actual acknowledgement of the underpinnings of the attack? Will former president Trump face any consequences for encouraging the riot and doing very little to stop it once it was underway? It has been a year and so far, little has been done or changed. 

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This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):