NIHCM Newsletter / October 2021

Boosters, Health Equity & Mental Health

COVID-19 Vaccines: Children, Boosters, Mandates

As of October 1st, the U.S. surpassed the estimated deaths that occurred during the 1918 influenza pandemic with 700,000 COVID-19 related deaths. Recent studies have shown that newer variants, such as Alpha, Delta, and Mu have evolved to spread more efficiently through the air, infecting more people than the original virus. As the national vaccination rate slows, the focus has shifted towards children’s vaccines, booster shots, and vaccine mandates.

  • Children: Pfizer has submitted their application for authorization of the vaccine for children 5-11 years old and the FDA has scheduled a review of the data for October 26th. Vaccinating children is critical to ending the pandemic, however, 42% of parents say they are unlikely to get their children vaccinated.
  • Boosters: COVID-19 vaccine booster doses are currently only available to eligible Pfizer recipients. The FDA is meeting on October 14th and 15th to discuss boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. According to a CDC study, the side effects of the booster shots are similar to those of the second dose.
  • Mandates: The Biden Administration ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to draft a new rule mandating that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing. A recent poll found that support for requiring public school students 12+ to be vaccinated against Covid stood at 54%.

Initiatives and Resources

Health Equity: AI & Taking Action

The pandemic illuminated vast disparities in health and well-being across racial and ethnic groups. To create a more equitable health care system, it is critical to understand the impact of artificial intelligence on health care, the social determinants of health, and other reasons for disparities in care.

  • Artificial Intelligence: NIHCM’s recent webinar and infographic explored diagnostic algorithms used in health care. Organizations are changing the race-related AI information they use, examples include a new diagnostic formula to improve Black patients’ access to kidney care. See MedPage Today coverage of NIHCM's webinar.
  • Disparities in Care: A recent study shows that revised guidelines for lung cancer screening perpetuate racial and ethnic disparities. A study on Black women’s high rate of premature births found racism to be a strong factor in explaining racial disparities.
  • Action & Advocacy: The latest research aimed at reducing disparities includes a growing body of research on implementation science for providers, health systems, and policymakers, such as this framework developed to address cancer care disparities.

Initiatives & Resources:

Mental Health: Social Media & the Workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting changes in daily life have negatively impacted Americans’ mental health while also creating new barriers for seeking help. Between 2019 and 2021, addressing mental health challenges at work underwent a normalization process. There is also increasing awareness of the mental health impact of social media on youth.

Initiatives & Resources:

  • Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey launched a virtual program that provides evidence-based treatment for eating disorders, the second deadliest mental health condition.
  • NIHCM Grantee, WBUR, released Pandemic Generation, exploring COVID-19’s impact on the mental health of children and young adults.

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 1 in 5 health care workers have quit.

Health Care Workers & Caregivers

Nationally, the demand for health care workers has often outweighed the supply; this trend has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly two years ago, 18% of health care workers have quit, citing COVID-19, poor pay, burnout, and vaccination mandates and 12% have been laid off.

  • Shortages: In health care, 79% of workers reported that the shortage has impacted them and their workplace. Staffing shortages may force 78% of nursing homes to close and the disability community is facing staffing challenges, due mainly to low wages and burnout.
  • Mandates: As vaccine mandates begin to roll out nationwide, employers fear they could make staffing even more difficult. With the CDC’s recent guidance that pregnant women should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, it is unclear whether or not pregnant health care workers will be exempt.

Initiatives & Resources:

Rural Health: COVID-19 & Telehealth

There are more than 57 million Americans currently residing in rural areas. These settings often have unique characteristics that put residents at higher risk of death, including reduced access to health care, distance to specialty and emergency care, and higher rates of poverty. Studies have shown that even before the pandemic, the rural health safety net was becoming increasingly unstable.

Initiatives & Resources:

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