Findings from a new study don’t bode well for the coming school year, and this research pre-dates the worrisome Delta variant

Photo: Atoms / Unsplash

With the school year starting soon, debates are raging across the country about whether students should wear masks or not. Both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all staff and students wear masks, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated or not.

Yet only eight U.S. states are requiring students to wear masks, and eight other states have made it legally impossible for any schools to require masks. …


The CDC’s partial-reversal on mask-wearing is long overdue, but the damage is done

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After weeks of pressure from public health experts and mounting evidence of the risk that vaccinated people can transmit Delta variant Covid-19 infections, the CDC finally reversed course on their mask guidance. Just days after doubling down on the agency’s worst Covid-related recommendation since Biden took office, CDC director Rochelle Walensky backtracked Tuesday and said the CDC recommends the following people wear masks indoors even if they’re fully vaccinated:

  • Those living in a county with rates of substantial or high Covid-19 transmission, which is at least 50 cases per 100,000 people over the previous week. …


Fully vaccinated people aren’t likely to get super sick from delta, but they can probably get mildly sick and pass it on to others

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The past two weeks have felt confusing, frustrating, and sudden for many people. As Covid-19 infection rates declined more and more throughout the summer, things started to feel a bit more normal-ish for many people.

Some felt like the pandemic was finally ending despite public health experts warning that it wasn’t and that another wave would arrive by fall. And then — BAM! — seemingly out of nowhere, the delta variant hit hard and fast. It’s now responsible for 83% of all infections in the U.S.

Now, just as families and schools are preparing for the upcoming school year, people…


The hard-to-capture research is in: children’s birthdays were linked to higher infection rates in counties that already had more cases

Photo: Sergei Solo/Unsplash

Epidemiologists regularly warned of the risks of small group gatherings, particularly indoors, during the pandemic before vaccines were available. News stories about superspreader family events popped up now and then, and infectious disease experts warned that these small indoor gatherings were a substantial driver of infections.

But the evidence was limited because this phenomenon is an incredibly difficult one to study. It’s hard to know how many gatherings are happening, and people may not be forthcoming about having hosted or attended a gathering when local policies advised against it or outright forbade it.

Recently, a group of researchers figured out…


Only about half of people who have had an organ transplant responded to two doses of the mRNA Covid vaccine, but the numbers went up after a third dose.

Photo by Mohammad Shahhosseini on Unsplash

One of the most overlooked groups in Covid-related guidelines is organ transplant recipients. When the CDC announced that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 could toss out their masks and begin rejoining normal life, the agency neglected to mention that this may not be safe for many of the 10 million-plus people in the US who are immune-compromised.

As I’ve written in depth at National Geographic, immune-compromised people are a hugely diverse group: some have immune systems impaired by a disease or other condition, others are impaired by medication to treat a condition, and yet others have both working against them…


Even before someone is fully vaccinated against Covid, their likelihood of passing the virus on is far lower

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People not vaccinated against Covid-19 are twice as likely to pass the infection on to others in their household as people who have Covid-19 but have gotten one dose of a vaccine, according to a new study. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine June 23, looked at the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines.

No vaccine can prevent 100% of all infections, so there will always be some “breakthrough cases” in vaccinated people — Covid-19 infections in people who received a Covid vaccine. …


In the brain tissue of Covid-19 patients who died, scientists found inflammation and damage that looked similar to effects from Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

a pinkish-bluish neuron in the middle of a pinkish background with its branches branching out behind it
a pinkish-bluish neuron in the middle of a pinkish background with its branches branching out behind it
Credit: National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health

It can take years before scientists and physicians learn all the ways a new disease can affect people, both acutely while they have the disease and chronically with long-term issues that may not show up until years later. This reality has long been one of the concerns with Covid: Even in people with mild infections who fully recover, could there be lasting impacts on the heart, lungs or other organs that cause problems later, particularly given what we’ve already been learning about “long Covid”?

Unfortunately, evidence is building to say yes, though those issues won’t affect all people who had…


We don’t yet know if temporary heart inflammation is a rare side effect of mRNA vaccination, but it’s possible

Photo: Heather Hazzan/SELF Magazine

As parents consider the risks and benefits of the Covid-19 vaccines for their kids, they may have heard about a heart inflammation condition called myocarditis or pericarditis occurring after some people get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s the tl;dr?

  • There appears to be a higher risk of myocarditis or pericarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle or its outer lining — in people ages ages 16–30 who get an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).
  • The risk varies from 1–25 cases per one million mRNA vaccine doses, depending on the person’s age, which vaccine they get…


India’s remarkable triumph over polio shows it can defeat massive public health challenges—but not when it lacks the vaccines that go unused in places like the U.S.

A local volunteer vaccinator administers two drops of the oral polio vaccine to children in a slum outside Delhi, India. (Photo by Tara Haelle)

In January 2020, as the world was only just beginning to hear about a new coronavirus making its way through, and out of, China, I was flying home from Delhi, India. I had been there for just over a week with Rotary International to observe and report on India’s National Immunization Day, a big part of their global polio eradication campaign. I’ve reflected on what I learned while reporting during those couple of days again and again throughout the pandemic, but especially in the past several weeks as I’ve read about the heartbreaking devastation of Covid-19 in India.

I can’t…


Now that kids as young as 12 can get a vaccine, here’s a look at how parents across the country are responding

Photo: Marisol Benitez/Unsplash

When the FDA authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for adolescents aged 12–15, millions of parents across the country breathed a sigh of relief. At last, their teens could have the opportunity to live somewhat normal lives with the protection a vaccine offered them.

“For some teens, the vaccine may be their sort of beacon of hope that they can go back to doing the things they want to do without worry, without fear,” Robin Gurwitch, PhD, a psychologist and professor at Duke University Medical Center, told me. She said some teens may look forward to getting the vaccine so they…

Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle is a science journalist, public speaker, and author of Vaccination Investigation and The Informed Parent. Follow her at @tarahaelle.

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