NIHCM Newsletter / September 2021

Children & COVID, Boosters, & Climate Change

Back to School: Children and COVID-19

As students return to in-person learning this year, schools continue to grapple with reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the evolving state of the pandemic. The recent surges in cases and hospitalizations among children and the Delta variant are particularly concerning for children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The ongoing health, economic, and social consequences of the pandemic continue to impact children.

  • Cases and hospitalizations: Cases have jumped as the Delta variant spreads among unvaccinated populations and has led to a record high in children’s hospitalizations. Doctors predict COVID-19 cases will continue to rise among children and children’s hospitals are preparing for an uptick in multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
  • Back to school: Across the country, students and teachers are quarantined for coronavirus exposure and some schools have already switched back to remote learning. While districts begin announcing vaccine mandates for teachers, some states are challenging mask mandates in schools.
  • Vaccine: The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be available for children ages 5 to 11 in late fall or early winter. More parents are considering vaccinations as more children are infected by the Delta variant. Currently, over 50% of adolescents ages 12 to 15 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Initiatives & Resources:

Boosters and the State of the Pandemic

A new study estimates that the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination rollout prevented up to 140,000 deaths as of early May. Since the FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine, vaccine hesitancy is declining and more Americans are getting vaccinated. Additionally, the Biden administration announced its plan to begin rolling out booster shots to fully vaccinated adults and 77% of vaccinated adults say they would get a booster if it’s recommended.

  • Booster strategy: Since the FDA has authorized booster shots for people with weakened immune systems, about 1 million boosters have been administered. The administration’s plan includes people who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and a plan for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be announced.
  • Breakthrough cases and variants: Early data suggests that the Delta variant has contributed to COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. Reports of the debilitating symptoms of even a mild breakthrough case reinforce the importance of vaccinated people to continue taking precautions.
  • Health care workers: In the latest COVID-19 surge, health care workers on the frontlines are suffering from burnout and considering leaving the profession. As COVID-19 fills hospitals again, health care workers are exhausted and reporting the impact of the strained system on their mental health.

Initiatives & Resources:

 Leading medical and health journals call the rise in global temperatures the “greatest threat to global public health,” requiring the same urgent action used to confront COVID-19.

Climate Change and Health

The Department of Health and Humans Services launched the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, the first to treat climate change as a public health issue. With the United Nations’ recent prediction of increasingly extreme weather events, from droughts and flooding to temperature highs and fires, the impact on human health is a growing burden. Leading medical and health journals call the 1.5-degree-Celsius rise in global temperatures the “greatest threat to global public health,” requiring the same urgent action used to confront COVID-19.

Initiatives & Resources:

Disabilities and Long-COVID

While the pandemic has highlighted the barriers and challenges facing individuals with disabilities, it has also prompted a conversation around disability resulting from the virus. Limited data suggest that between 10 and 25 percent of adults infected with COVID-19 develop longer-term complications, including fatigue, difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath and dizziness. Recognizing the debilitating effects of long-COVID for some individuals, new guidance from the Biden administration says that long COVID can be considered a disability under civil rights law, if it substantially limits one or more major life activities.

  • Returning to the workplace: Disability advocates are calling for accommodations that were commonplace during the pandemic to remain in place and be embraced by workplaces.
  • Surviving COVID: NIHCM grantee, Tradeoffs, hosted a podcast episode featuring one woman’s story of living with a disability during the pandemic.

Initiatives & Resources:

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s mobile vaccine buses are helping Minnesotans with disabilities get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The Disability Equality Index named BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion, recognizing its employee benefits and human resources policies, the accessibility of its customer-facing digital content and an internship program to support high school students who have intellectual and learning disabilities.
  • NIHCM hosted a webinar on disabilities and the pandemic, including Anthem’s efforts to expand telehealth and increased care options, and address comorbidities and the needs of COVID-19 longhaulers.

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