Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Cameron Hood, Newsletter EditorJonathan Lambert
Public Health Reporter
Welcome to Grid Health, bringing you stories on the intersections of health and politics, technology, climate change, misinformation and more. In this issue:  
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The updated omicron booster rollout has been a dud. That’s bad news heading into the fall and winter, especially for older Americans most at risk.  

7.6 million Americans — less than 4 percent of those eligible — have received the shot so far, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While some recently infected people may be waiting a few months to get boosted (per official recommendations), there doesn’t seem to be much urgency among the public. Two-thirds of adults don’t plan on getting the updated shot anytime soon, according to polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.  

The slow rollout comes as much of the country’s hard-won immunity, from vaccination or infection, is weakening. About half of adults have gotten the original booster, but its protection wanes after six months, and about a quarter of adults remain unvaccinated. As cases and hospitalizations tick up across Western Europe, potentially driven by
new, more immune-evasive flavors of omicron, the sluggish booster campaign is leaving Americans — and hospital systems — more vulnerable to a winter wave

“I would say I’m disappointed, but that’s not quite the right word, because being disappointed implies you had high expectations in the first place,” said Peter Hotez, co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. “The messaging has been so muddled,” he said. 

The survey data from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals the consequences of that muddled messaging: 

51 percent of adults have only heard “a little” or “nothing at all” about the updated booster. 

  • That percentage dips slightly, to 41 percent, for those over 65 

2 in 5 fully vaccinated adults aren’t sure whether the updated booster is recommended for them. 

  • 57 percent of seniors know they should get the booster, but 37 percent remain unsure 

Only one-third of eligible adults intend to get the booster or have already, but there are stark differences based on political identity. 

  • 52 percent of Democrats vs. 11 percent of Republicans plan to get the booster as soon as possible

💉Read my full story on the rollout of the boosters.


📈 Science Reporter Dan Vergano has more on the disturbing findings.


💠 Words matter: The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health changed how Americans think about abortion. We know because of how they are Googling it, Politics Editor Leah Askarinam writes. “Manslaughter” has become the second-fastest-growing related search term — rising by more than 4,000 percent — for those who search the term “miscarriage,” followed by “Roe v. Wade,” “criminal charge” and “abortion law.”  Read more.

The long-term health effects of extreme weather: Hurricane Ian cut a deadly path after making landfall in southwest Florida on Wednesday, a devastating consequence of record flooding and terrible wind. I write about how the storm will continue exacting a toll on public health long after the skies clear and cleanup begins — often in unexpected ways. Read more.

💠 The NFL’s concussion protocol takes a hit: Repeated injuries to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa last week kickstarted a debate over whether the NFL is doing enough to protect the brains of its players. Senior Editor Suzette Lohmeyer and I dive into the science and social and business context of traumatic brain injuries. Read more.

💠 Our video series “No Dumb Questions” takes on mask-wearing this week: Science Editor Lauren Morello looks at the evidence for mask-wearing to protect against covid and the history of masking as a public-health tool. Watch here.

🎧 Introducing Grid’s new podcast, Bad Takes! Each week, Executive Editor Laura McGann and Editor-at-Large Matthew Yglesias discuss a take that’s gotten under their skin, peeling back its layers to figure out what it tells us about American politics and society. Check out the latest episodes and subscribe here Have a bad take for Laura and Matt to review in a future episode? Send it to us📩


The share of families with children reporting food insecurity ticked upward by roughly 6.6 percentage points between April 2021 and June 2022, according to the Urban Institute’s quarterly Health Reform Monitoring Survey. The trend coincides with the end of several covid relief programs aimed at reducing hunger, experts told Data Reporter Anna Deen. But it's not clear whether the White House’s new emphasis on ending hunger will help reverse the rising number of hungry kids. 

🍽 Read more here.


  • How McKinsey Got Into the Business of Addiction (New York Times)  
  • Teachers, Nurses, and Child-Care Workers Have Had Enough (The Atlantic
  • ALS drug wins FDA approval despite questionable data (Associated Press)


📩 P.S. Do you work at a long covid treatment center, or have you gone to one yourself? We want to hear from you about what these centers offer and what they're like for patients. Email us or tweet at us @gridnews.

👋 Thanks for reading. Until next week, take care. –Jon 

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Anna Deen, Emma Loewenthal, Cameron Hood and Lillian Barkley also contributed to this edition of Grid Health.
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