NIHCM Newsletter / November 2021
Vaccinating Children & Environmental Health
Rolling Out Children’s Vaccines
Every child 5 and older is now eligible for the COVID vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the Pfizer pediatric vaccine for children 5-11 years old, and distribution has begun. While children 12 and older receive the same vaccine as adults, younger children receive one-third of the dose. The CDC expects vaccinating children 5-11 will prevent about 600,000 new cases from November 2021 to March 2022.
- Vaccine Updates: Moderna has new data that supports its COVID vaccine for children 6-11 and plans to submit findings to regulators. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also taking additional time to review the Moderna vaccine for children ages 12-17 to look into an increased risk of myocarditis (the inflammation of the heart muscle), particularly for young men after the second dose.
- Parents’ Role: One of the challenges in getting children 5 and older vaccinated is parents’ perceptions. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 30% of parents said they would definitely not get their child aged 5-11 vaccinated against COVID-19.
- School Mandates: Parents are also worried about schools requiring children to get vaccinated for COVID-19. California issued the first statewide mandate requiring the nearly seven million K-12 students to be inoculated against COVID-19 as soon as next fall.
Resources & Initiatives:
- The National Academies of Sciences has strategies for communicating with parents of children who are considering vaccination.
- See these tips on how to talk to younger kids about the COVID vaccine, including planning for a reward after the vaccine appointment.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and the City of Worcester recently held the Youth Fall Vax Series, aimed at increasing youth vaccination rates with education and administering vaccines.
The Environmental Health Crisis Could Dwarf COVID
Despite pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, the United Nations reports that three potent greenhouse gases reached record highs in 2020. These unprecedented contributions to climate change have made extreme weather events more likely to occur, with potentially detrimental effects on human health. With the current policies, the hottest regions of North America may be unlivable by the end of this century.
- Impact on Health: A recently published report found that the health impacts of climate change are getting worse, putting the world at risk of a global epidemic that could far exceed the COVID-19 crisis. The rise in temperatures and accompanying weather events have caused countless preventable deaths, food and water insecurity, and the rise of infectious diseases worldwide.
- Pollution: Across the US, nearly 42,000 sources of toxic ‘forever chemicals’, are polluting water, persisting in the environment, and accumulating in the body. The Environmental Protection Agency announced a plan to reduce pollution from these long-lasting chemicals.
- Action: This year’s COP26 summit is a critical opportunity to reduce climate change, with experts calling for ambitious strategies. In the US, only 41% of all adults are ‘very concerned about climate change, compared with 52% of Generation Z adults (those born between 1997 and 2012).
Resources & Initiatives:
- Learn more about the impact of climate change on health in a new NIHCM infographic.
- In yet another year of record-breaking wildfires, Anthem Blue Cross provided a $50,000 donation to the California Fire Foundation’s California Firefighters Benevolent Fund.
- NIHCM grantee, the Center for Health Journalism at USC Annenberg, hosted a webinar on the deadly threat of climate change.
- Trust for America’s Health released resources on climate change examining state efforts to implement programs centered on equity.
- NIHCM Journalism Award winner on heat and health in cities.
Future of COVID: Misinformation, Boosters, & Mandates
Throughout October, COVID-19 cases across the US declined but have risen by 6% over the past 14 days. Pfizer also announced that their pill to treat COVID-19 was highly effective, cutting the risk of hospitalization or death by roughly 89%. Yet as winter approaches, along with flu season, experts warn that another surge is plausible. Researchers are also concerned about long COVID, with studies reporting that more than half of COVID-19 patients experience symptoms six months after recovery.
- Vaccine Misinformation: YouTube announced that it will prohibit the sharing of vaccine misinformation, expanding its existing ban on medical misinformation. Publicized Facebook documents showed that the platform is having difficulties managing COVID-19 misinformation, and may even be reinforcing vaccine hesitancy.
- Boosters: Adults eligible for COVID booster shots are now able to choose from any of the three authorized in the US with the added flexibility of being able to mix-and-match shots. The CDC is now reporting cases by vaccination status, adding that what it means to be “fully vaccinated” may soon change as well.
- Mandates: A recent study suggests that vaccine mandates encourage more people to get vaccinated. However, thousands of employees nationwide have been fired or placed on leave for refusing. With limited exceptions, mainly for religious exemptions, judges have upheld mandates requiring full vaccination.
Resources & Initiatives:
- NIHCM Grantee, The Journalist’s Resource, published an article explaining the FDA accelerated approval process for drugs and vaccines.
- Anthem Foundation is working with the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care to launch a “Breathe Better Kentucky” campaign to educate residents on lung health.
- On November 17th, NIHCM is hosting a webinar on the implications of long COVID for patients and the health care system.
Record High Deaths: Substance Use and Stigma
Substance Use Disorders (SUD) and drug overdose deaths continue to increase and require attention during COVID-19. Provisional CDC data shows that the US reached a record high of more than 96,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months ending March 2021 and a SAMHSA survey found that 40.3 million Americans (or 14.5%) had a SUD in 2020. A recent study found that the rate of opioid overdose deaths among Black people increased faster than other racial/ethnic groups, suggesting a need for treatment equity and an antiracist public health approach.
- Stigma: The recently released Shatterproof Addiction Stigma Index demonstrates the need to address stigma and discrimination for individuals with SUD. Despite decades of action, deep-rooted and negative perceptions of people with SUDs have remained one of the largest drivers for negative outcomes for those struggling with addiction.
- Alcohol Use: In 2020, 28.3 million Americans have alcohol use disorder and consumption has increased during the pandemic. There is an association between COVID-19 and a surge in demand for liver transplants for alcoholic hepatitis. Learn what doctors wish patients knew about unhealthy alcohol use.
- Methamphetamine: Meth use has increased by 43% from 2015 to 2019. The populations at higher risk for Methamphetamine Use Disorder are diversifying rapidly, particularly for those with socioeconomic risk factors and comorbidities.
Resources & Initiatives:
- See NIHCM’s resources on SUD, including a close look at the drugs involved in overdose deaths.
- On November 16th, NIHCM grantee, the Center for Health Journalism at USC Annenberg, is hosting a webinar featuring the journalist and author Sam Quinones on ‘America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth.'
- See what physician actions the American Medical Association recommends to end the drug overdose epidemic, which requires partnership, collaboration, and commitment to individualized patient care decision-making.
- Anthem is collaborating with Boulder Care to grow its telehealth addiction treatment network across Ohio.
- Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey offers resources for people with SUD and highlights the need to address Adderall use among kids and students.
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