FDA authorizes Pfizer bivalent COVID booster for kids 6 months through age 4

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday that it authorized the emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech's bivalent (two-strain) booster in children ages 6 months through 4 years who have had their primary Pfizer vaccine series, which is three doses.

In amending the emergency use authorization (EUA), the FDA said the booster can be given at least 2 months after children have completed the three-dose series of the single-strain vaccine.

In a press release, Peter Marks, MD, PhD, who directs the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said, "Currently available data show that vaccination remains the best defense against severe disease, hospitalization, and death caused by COVID-19 across all age groups, and we encourage all eligible individuals to make sure that their vaccinations are up to date with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine."

In the release, the FDA detailed the vaccine effectiveness and safety data that supported the EUA.

Study finds most mpox videos on TikTok are incomplete, inaccurate

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TikTok balloon
Sebrae-SE, Silvia Belluzzo / Flickr cc

An analysis of mpox-related TikTok videos found the quality was low and the information provided was frequently incomplete and inaccurate, researchers reported yesterday in BMJ Global Health.

Using a hashtag-based search strategy, the researchers identified 2,462 mpox-related videos from January 1 to August 11, 2022, and analyzed 85, evaluating them for content on features and treatment of mpox. They assessed the quality of the information using the DISCERN instrument (a questionnaire that evaluates healthcare information from three perspectives) and JAMA criteria. They also recorded the video source, evaluation scores, and viewer engagement metrics.

Of the 85 videos, which had an average length of 78 seconds, 85% addressed at least one mpox risk factor. But on average they addressed only 33% of all content items that were highlighted in clinical practice guidelines. The average score obtained using the DISCERN instrument was 39.56 out of 80, indicating the overall quality of the information was poor, and the average JAMA score was 1.93 out of 4.

Overall scores were higher for videos produced by doctors and science communicators than for those produced by institutional users, nurses, and the general public. The presence of people in the video and information on the quality of treatment choices were significant and independent determinants of audience engagement (counted by likes).

Our study highlights the risks of referring to TikTok or social media as a health information source.

The study authors note that, with more than 1 billion users in 2022, TikTok is one of the major platforms people use to seek healthcare information and support, and that health-related TikTok videos have shown high audience engagement, which makes evaluating the quality of the information "both urgent and important."

"Our study highlights the risks of referring to TikTok or social media as a health information source," they wrote. "Poor quality videos with biased content may lead to confusion and impair successful informed decision making. This exacerbates the 'infodemic' on social media, deterring efforts to prevent and manage disease outbreaks, notably the mpox outbreak."

Nepal hit by measles outbreak

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Measles vaccination
CDC, Molly Kurnit, MPH

A measles outbreak that began late last year in western Nepal has grown to 690 cases, according to an update yesterday from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO said the outbreak was confirmed by the National Public Health Laboratory on January 2 in Nepalgunj sub-metropolitan city (SMC) in Banke district, Lumbini province, following a cluster of cases of fever and rash. That prompted an active case search that retrospectively identified an index case whose symptoms began on November 24, 2022. From that date to March 10, 690 cases measles cases have been reported from seven districts in western Nepal and three in eastern Nepal, with 1 associated death. The number of cases increased sharply in December but started declining in the second week of January.

A strong majority of cases (86%) have been reported in children aged 15 and younger, and 58% of the patients are unvaccinated. The outbreak is occurring in a population with suboptimal immunity linked to the disruption of routine immunization services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WHO said that while measles is endemic in Nepal and sporadic cases are reported every year, the magnitude and extent of the current outbreak are unusually high compared with previous years.

"The risk of spread of measles is assessed as high at the national level and moderate at regional level, due to the spread of the outbreak from Nepalgunj SMC to other districts and provinces, the detection of measles cases in a highly mobile population with frequent cross-border travel, and low population immunity of the affected districts," the agency wrote.

The risk of spread of measles is assessed as high at the national level.

Nepal's Ministry of Health, with support from the WHO and several non-governmental organizations, has implemented response measures, including active case search, case management, and outbreak response immunization.

The last major measles outbreak in Nepal occurred in 2004, when 12,047 cases were reported.

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