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What We’re Reading: Additional COVID-19 Booster; Postpartum Depression Rates During Pandemic; Children’s Mental Health


Pfizer and BioNTech requested FDA emergency use authorization for a fourth COVID-19 dose for older adults; postpartum depression rates tripled during early months of the COVID-19 pandemic; anxiety and depression diagnoses among children each increased by roughly 25% since 2016.

Pfizer Seeks EUA of Fourth COVID-19 Dose for Older Adults

Pfizer and BioNTech requested FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) for a second COVID-19 booster dose, or fourth vaccine dose, for adults 65 years and older, as reported by Politico. This request was made Tuesday amid concerns of waning immunity and a potential wave of infections in spring and is based on data from studies in Israel suggesting a fourth dose protects against Omicron while maintaining its safety profile. One data tranche showed notable reductions in confirmed infection rates and severe illness among those who received a fourth dose at least 4 months after the third dose, compared with those who only received 3 doses. Meanwhile, another ongoing trial revealed antibody levels increased 7 to 8 times in the first few weeks after the fourth dose. According to Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, evidence of the third dose’s protection against hospitalization and death further emphasizes the need for additional doses.

Postpartum Depression Rates Tripled Early in COVID-19 Pandemic

According to a study published in BMC Research Notes, more than one-third of new mothers who gave birth early in the COVID-19 pandemic experienced postpartum depression, reflecting a nearly 3-fold increase compared with prepandemic rates. These data were collected in surveys taken between February and July 2020, which also found that one-fifth of new mothers had major depressive symptoms and 7.6% of the included sample reported thoughts of self-harm. As reported by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, mothers who fed their child formula as opposed to breastfeeding were 92% more likely to experience postpartum depression and 73% more likely to have major depressive symptoms. COVID-19 played a major role in these rates as well, with mothers concerned about contracting the virus having 71% greater odds of experiencing postpartum depression.

Children’s Mental Health Worsens Since 2016

The COVID-19 pandemic largely impacted children’s mental health, with anxiety and depression diagnoses significantly increasing (by 27% and 24%, respectively) between 2016 and 2020, specifically between 2019 and 2020. According to the JAMA Pediatrics study, there were also significant decreases in children’s physical activity and caregiver mental and emotional well-being between 2016 and 2020. Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019, there were significant increases in diagnosed behavioral or conduct issues and unmet health care needs, as well as decreases in preventive medical care visits. Households as a whole were also affected, with proportions of parents who quit, declined, or changed jobs because of complications with child care increasing since the pandemic began. Notably, as of 2020, only 80% of children requiring mental health care services actually received them.

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