NIHCM Newsletter / June 2021

Reopening, LGBTQ Health, & Vaccinating Children

Opening Up Guidance - What is Next?

With half of U.S. adults fully vaccinated against COVID-19, questions remain about reopening the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement that fully vaccinated people rarely need to wear masks has caused confusion and concern.

  • Workers’ Dismay: The largest union of registered nurses worry the loosening of restrictions will compound the dangers they face on the job. Retail workers are feeling as vulnerable as they did a year ago as more customers go maskless.
  • Expert Opinions: Public health experts are concerned that the CDC missed the mark in terms of policy and communication and that the new guidance could have unattended consequences, particularly for communities with low vaccination rates.
  • Vaccination Continues: Most states are still struggling to get 50% of their population (adults and children) vaccinated. Efforts to increase rates continue with many states offering new incentives such as vaccine lotteries.


  • Learn about the studies that supported the new CDC mask guidance, which address variants, reinfection, and real-world settings.
  • COVID-19 has transformed the American workplace - learn about how companies are changing their attitudes on remote work.

About 20% of children ages 12-15 have received their first COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccinating Our Children

Vaccination efforts are now focused on young people and as of June 3rd, about 20% of children ages 12-15 have received their first COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinating children against COVID-19 is essential in reaching herd immunity. Teens should see widespread vaccine availability by the time school starts in the fall, which may also enable some parents to more easily return to the workplace.

  • Raising Rates: Increasing vaccination rates among children will require continued communication and outreach, particularly towards the parents who play a critical role in the success of these efforts.
  • Younger Children: Children under 12 will likely be eligible for the vaccine in the fall and vaccine trials for children five and younger are currently underway.
  • Vaccine Equity: There are nearly half a million foster and migrant children who may not be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which requires a guardian’s consent and vaccine consent laws vary by state.


  • The CDC has answers to parents’ questions on getting their children and teens the COVID-19 vaccine and evidence of the vaccine’s safety
  • NIHCM grantee, Journalist’s Resource, has gathered research studies that can provide journalists with background and sources so they can report on COVID-19 vaccines in children.
  • See the CDC’s recent guidance for summer camps, which says that vaccinated children do not need to wear masks.

Disability and the Pandemic

Resources & Initiatives:

Register now for NIHCM’s June 28th webinar on the impact of the pandemic on people with disabilities.

"42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year"

- The Trevor Project 

PRIDE 2021 – LGTBQ Health and Well-Being

The Trevor Project’s new National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021 revealed that more than 80% of LGBTQ youth said that COVID-19 made their lives more stressful and that their mental health suffered from recent political and economic developments. The Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, also found disparities in attempted suicide rates: 12% for White LGTBQ youth, 31% for Native/Indigenous, 21% for Blacks, and 18% for Latinos. Nationwide, policymakers and organizations are stepping up efforts to address discrimination against LGBTQ people.

  • Biden Administration Action: The White House released a PRIDE Month Proclamation and Factsheet championing equity for LGBTQ people and detailing executive actions addressing violence against transgender people.
  • LGBTQ Health and COVID-19: The new We Count Collaborative: Impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Health is the first, large-scale, long-term national health study on the impact of the coronavirus on LGBTQ+ people.
  • Standing Against Discrimination: Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota joins other Minnesota businesses to decry four anti-transgender bills in the state and anti-transgender legislation around the country.

Register now for NIHCM’s June 17th webinar on investing in children’s health and well-being, featuring The Trevor Project.

Initiatives and Resources:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts will donate $1 to Fenway Health for every ride taken in June on 100, PRIDE-themed, Bluebikes in Boston to support Fenway’s services to the LGBTQ community.
  • A new NIHCM infographic, created in partnership with the Trevor Project, highlights the link between foster care and suicide for LGBTQ youth.
  • A just-released NIHCM infographic explores homelessness in young people and high rates for LGBTQ youth.

Opioids and Substance Use Disorder

The pandemic has created the perfect storm of risk factors that increase drug use and worsen conditions for those already facing addiction, including isolation and difficulty accessing in-person treatment. Early evidence based on provisional data from the CDC shows a sharp rise in opioid deaths when COVID-19 lockdowns began in March 2020 and highlights the need to focus efforts on expanding access to programs and supporting those in need.

  • Biden Administration Action: The Biden administration’s drug policy priorities focus on treatment and prevention, such as through harm reduction and expanding access to buprenorphine, a drug treatment that has been proven to reduce opioid overdose deaths.
  • Medicaid Action: Academy Health released a report on how state Medicaid programs can enact innovative delivery system reforms and play a role in improving opioid use disorder outcomes.
  • Racial Disparities: The Journalist’s Resource released a primer and research roundup on racial disparities in opioid addiction treatment.

Initiatives & Resources:

  • NIHCM’s recent webinar on the opioid crisis explored solutions to reduce overdose rates, with a focus on efforts to expand access to evidence-based recovery programs.
  • NIHCM released two new dynamic infographics on the impact of synthetic opioids and the rise in stimulant-involved overdose deaths, including an analysis of the provisional data on rising deaths during the pandemic.
  • Shatterproof shares resources and tools to help end stigma around addiction.
  • Curtis Barnett, CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, participated in a panel discussion on how businesses can combat the opioid crisis while simultaneously navigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Protecting Mental Health

The stress of living through 2020 has led to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges for millions of adults and children. Yet, Anthem’s new State of the Nation's Mental Health Report shows that people might not be getting the help they need. The report details a 5 to 13% drop in diagnosis and treatment, across a range of mental health problems during the year. Here’s how other health plans are addressing the issue:

Health Plan Initiatives:

Other Initiatives and Resources

  • Health and Human Services is committing $3 billion to its mental health and substance use block grant programs and Secretary Becerra formed a new Behavioral Health Coordinating Council.
  • STAT reports pediatricians are seeing an influx of child mental health crises.
  • A new NIHCM infographic examines challenges and offers solutions on children’s mental health.

New Blue Cross Blue Shield Association report:
Racial Disparities in Maternal Health

NIHCM 2021 Research and Journalism Grant Programs are now accepting Letters of Inquiry. Learn more.

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