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Vaccine rollout hits snag as health workers balk at shots

By BERNARD CONDON, MATT SEDENSKY and CARLA K. JOHNSON
January 8, 2021
Source: Associate Press

Source: Associate Press, Jae C. Hong
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

In this Jan. 7, 2021, file photo, a nurse puts on protective gear in a COVID-19 unit in California. The nation’s biggest immunization rollout in history is facing pushback from an unlikely source: health care workers who witnessed COVID-19′s devastation firsthand but are refusing shots in surprising numbers. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The desperately awaited vaccination drive against the coronavirus in the U.S. is running into resistance from an unlikely quarter: Surprising numbers of health care workers who have seen firsthand the death and misery inflicted by COVID-19 are refusing shots.

It is happening in nursing homes and, to a lesser degree, in hospitals, with employees expressing what experts say are unfounded fears of side effects from vaccines that were developed at record speed. More than three weeks into the campaign, some places are seeing as much as 80% of the staff holding back.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be a guinea pig,” said Dr. Stephen Noble, a 42-year-old cardiothoracic surgeon in Portland, Oregon, who is postponing getting vaccinated. “At the end of the day, as a man of science, I just want to see what the data show. And give me the full data.

Alarmed by the phenomenon, some administrators have dangled everything from free breakfasts at Waffle House to a raffle for a car to get employees to roll up their sleeves. Some states have threatened to let other people cut ahead of health care workers in the line for shots.

“It’s far too low. It’s alarmingly low,” said Neil Pruitt, CEO of PruittHealth, which runs about 100 long-term care homes in the South, where fewer than 3 in 10 workers offered the vaccine so far have accepted it.

Many medical facilities from Florida to Washington state have boasted of near-universal acceptance of the shots, and workers have proudly plastered pictures of themselves on social media receiving the vaccine. Elsewhere, though, the drive has stumbled.

While the federal government has released no data on how many people offered the vaccines have taken them, glimpses of resistance have emerged around the country.

In Illinois, a big divide has opened at state-run veterans homes between residents and staff. The discrepancy was worst at the veterans home in Manteno, where 90% of residents were vaccinated but only 18% of the staff members.

In rural Ashland, Alabama, about 90 of some 200 workers at Clay County Hospital have yet to agree to get vaccinated, even with the place so overrun with COVID-19 patients that oxygen is running low and beds have been added to the intensive care unit, divided by plastic sheeting.

The pushback comes amid the most lethal phase in the outbreak yet, with the death toll at more than 350,000, and it could hinder the government’s effort to vaccinate somewhere between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population to achieve “herd immunity.

Administrators and public health officials have expressed hope that more health workers will opt to be vaccinated as they see their colleagues take the shots without problems.

Oregon doctor Noble said he will wait until April or May to get the shots. He said it is vital for public health authorities not to overstate what they know about the vaccines. That is particularly important, he said, for Black people like him who are distrustful of government medical guidance because of past failures and abuses, such as the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

Medical journals have published extensive data on the vaccines, and the Food and Drug Administration has made its analysis public. But misinformation about the shots has spread wildly online, including falsehoods that they cause fertility problems.

Stormy Tatom, 30, a hospital ICU nurse in Beaumont, Texas, said she decided against getting vaccinated for now “because of the unknown long-term side effects.”

“I would say at least half of my coworkers feel the same way,” Tatom said.

There have been no signs of widespread severe side effects from the vaccines, and scientists say the drugs have been rigorously tested on tens of thousands and vetted by independent experts.

States have begun turning up the pressure. South Carolina’s governor gave health care workers until Jan. 15 to get a shot or “move to the back of the line.” Georgia’s top health official has allowed some vaccines to be diverted to other front-line workers, including firefighters and police, out of frustration with the slow uptake.

“There’s vaccine available but it’s literally sitting in freezers,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. “That’s unacceptable. We have lives to save.”

Nursing homes were among the institutions given priority for the shots because the virus has cut a terrible swath through them. Long-term care residents and staff account for about 38% of the nation’s COVID-19 fatalities.

In West Virginia, only about 55% of nursing home workers agreed to the shots when they were first offered last month, according to Martin Wright, who leads the West Virginia Health Care Association.

“It’s a race against social media,” Wright said of battling falsehoods about the vaccines.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said only 40% of the state’s nursing home workers have gotten shots. North Carolina’s top public health official estimated more than half were refusing the vaccine there.

SavaSeniorCare has offered cash to the 169 long-term care homes in its 20-state network to pay for gift cards, socially distanced parties or other incentives. But so far, data from about a third of its homes shows that 55% of workers have refused the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens, which have been contracted by a majority of U.S. nursing homes to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, have not released specifics on the acceptance rate. CVS said that residents have agreed to be immunized at an “encouragingly high” rate but that “initial uptake among staff is low,” partly because of efforts to stagger when employees receive their shots.

Some facilities have vaccinated workers in stages so that the staff is not sidelined all at once if they suffer minor side effects, which can include fever and aches.

The hesitation isn’t surprising, given the mixed message from political leaders and misinformation online, said Dr. Wilbur Chen, a professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in the science of vaccines.

He noted that health care workers represent a broad range of jobs and backgrounds and said they are not necessarily more informed than the general public.

“They don’t know what to believe either,” Chen said. But he said he expects the hesitancy to subside as more people are vaccinated and public health officials get their message across.

Some places have already seen turnarounds, such as Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“The biggest thing that helped us to gain confidence in our staff was watching other staff members get vaccinated, be OK, walk out of the room, you know, not grow a third ear, and so that really is like an avalanche,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer. “The first few hundred that we had created another 300 that wanted the vaccine.”

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans; Candice Choi in New York; Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Bryan Anderson in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Why are so many medical professionals one of the main communities hesitant to take a vaccine created within their own industry? Some say it was politicized? Others say it has not been adequately tested? What do you say?

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How Do HIPAA Laws Impact Employers (and HIPAA Compliance Checklist)?

Source: Business
Dec 18, 2020

When does HIPAA apply to employers, and how should they ensure compliance? This guide answers common employer questions about HIPAA obligations.

In the healthcare industry, patient data is considered sensitive and, as such, is subject to certain privacy and security requirements to ensure it remains confidential. Some employers may find themselves handling this protected health information (PHI) and could be required under federal law to handle that data in a specific way. It is important for all employers to understand the federal law known as HIPAA and how it applies (or doesn’t apply) to them.

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that establishes privacy standards by which healthcare organizations are required to protect sensitive patient information. Since it was signed in 1996, HIPAA has been updated periodically to evolve alongside technology, adapting to include cybersecurity standards required of all “covered entities” and their business associates.

What is the HIPAA Privacy Rule?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule is the section of the law that specifically relates to the confidential handling and transmission of patient healthcare data. Measures in the Privacy Rule include an enumeration of individuals’ rights under the law, such as how they can control and access their own healthcare information.

Moreover, the Privacy Rule prescribes how healthcare organizations and other covered entities and business associates must handle protected health information. This includes requirements governing both process and technology; not only must protected health information be handled properly, but it must also be stored securely.

“It requires you to protect and maintain the security of PHI, which is a defined term that deals generally with health information that can be identified and tied to a specific individual,” Paul Starkman, an employment attorney for Clark Hill, told businesss.com. “It deals with how the information must be protected in terms of encryption, password protection and things like that. It also deals with transmission … and it has some other requirements too in terms of disposing [of] PHI once it is no longer needed.”

Starkman said this includes information from paper files, digital files and machines and equipment that become outdated or are no longer in service.

“Those need to be disposed of in accordance with HIPAA guidelines,” he said.

Which types of businesses does HIPAA apply to?

The stringent requirements included in HIPAA don’t apply to all employers – just those that fall into a certain category.

The term “covered entities” refers to organizations that are required to comply with the rules set out under HIPAA. Covered entities include doctors’ offices, hospitals, insurance companies, insurance plans and clearinghouses. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a full list of covered entities on its website.

“HIPAA is primarily going to apply to covered entities,” said Jarryd Rutter, an HR coach at Paychex. “That is where HIPAA is most impactful: for those industries and obligations, not only to customers but their employees.”

Rutter noted that Paychex does not give its clients legal advice and recommended that businesses consult with legal counsel if they are concerned about their HIPAA obligations.

HIPAA also applies to organizations that do business with covered entities and handle or process patients’ protected health information in some way. These organizations are known as “business associates” under the law and are also required to abide by HIPAA regulations.

“Sometimes we get pushback from a client we are helping because they are hesitant to send documents out of concern they are violating HIPAA when, in fact, they are not,” Rutter said. “A non-covered entity doesn’t have to be concerned with HIPAA; it’s really limited to if they offer health insurance plans and the handling of that health insurance info.”

Other employers are generally not covered by HIPAA and, therefore, are not required to abide by the strict privacy and security regulations included in the law. However, Rutter said, non-covered entities likely have some privacy and security obligations under other federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  

When does HIPAA apply to non-covered entities?

Although HIPAA doesn’t apply to most businesses, there is one unique circumstance in which employers should be aware of the law’s requirements. Employers that provide a self-funded health insurance plan are technically operating a covered entity: the health plan itself. This means the health insurance plan is subject to all of the requirements in HIPAA, while the primary business is not.

“Because that self-funded plan … is viewed as a covered entity, the health plan falls under HIPAA,” said Matt Fisher, healthcare attorney at Mirick O’Connell. “You end up having to wall off the information used for maintenance and operation of that plan. But, on the whole, HIPAA will really not apply to the general employer and employee relationship.”

Another common way employers come into contact with an employee’s PHI is through workers’ compensation claims, Fisher said. In these instances, clinical documentation from medical appointments might be required to support the workers’ compensation claim, and employers would need access to that information.

However, just because an employer has access to this data, it does not necessarily mean HIPAA applies.

“Generally, the health information employers get through the employment relationship is not going to be covered by HIPAA,” Starkman said. “It may be covered by other state privacy laws.”

In the example of a workers’ compensation claim, HIPAA would govern the healthcare provider’s handling of protected health information and its release to the employer; the employee would be required to consent to this transmission of their healthcare data. Once that consent is given and the information is received by the employer, however, HIPAA no longer applies.

What are examples of HIPAA violations?

HIPAA violations can be costly, so it is important to avoid even unintentional violations. Civil penalties for HIPAA violations can exceed $50,000 per violation. Violations committed with malicious intent could result in criminal charges – in the most egregious cases, up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

The first step in avoiding HIPAA violations is knowing some of the most common ones.

Unreported data breaches

Healthcare organizations are a major target for cybercriminals attempting to breach the networks and steal sensitive healthcare data. Covered entities must report data breaches to the individuals affected, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and sometimes the media.

To avoid data breaches, ensure that your antivirus software is up-to-date and that all data is encrypted in storage and transmission. Update your software on all connected devices regularly to patch vulnerabilities exploited by hackers. Decommission outdated devices and remove them from your network; dispose of them per HIPAA regulations. Loss of devices

There are thousands of connected medical devices in any given hospital, all of which contain protected health information. The loss or theft of these devices could lead to the loss of sensitive data unless they are properly password-protected and encrypted in accordance with HIPAA. A failure to do so that results in a data breach is a HIPAA violation that could be easily avoided.

Unauthorized access

Employees accessing data they do not need or are not authorized to access usually constitutes a HIPAA violation. To avoid this problem, implement authorization systems that require employees to confirm their identities before accessing restricted information. Establish clear policies and procedures around authorizations and consequences for accessing information fraudulently.

Failure to encrypt data

Under HIPAA, all data must be encrypted. The law does not specify a precise standard, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology recommends Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 128 at a minimum. Failure to encrypt devices, data in storage and data in transit likely constitutes a HIPAA violation. Avoid this by ensuring that all data in your network is encrypted to the highest possible standard.

HIPAA compliance for employers

If you are a covered entity or a business associate of a covered entity, HIPAA regulations apply to you. To ensure you remain compliant, follow this useful HIPAA compliance checklist from HIPAA Journal:

  1. Identify which audits apply to your organization.
  2. Conduct those audits internally; then analyze the results and determine corrective measures.
  3. Implement the corrective measures and document them. Review compliance annually.
  4. Appoint a HIPAA compliance officer. Alternatively, appoint dedicated privacy and security officers.
  1. Task the HIPAA compliance officer(s) with training all employees on HIPAA obligations.
  2. Document HIPAA training and staff member completion of the training program.
  3. Annually perform due diligence assessments on any business associates to ensure HIPAA compliance.
  4. Establish processes for reporting breaches and notifying the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

Following this checklist and establishing a clear set of policies and procedures regarding HIPAA compliance can put your organization in a better position to meet the strict privacy and security requirements included in the law.

Employer HIPAA responsibilities and COVID-19

Although HIPAA applies only to covered entities and business associates, the law offers a good list of guidelines for other employers to follow as they implement employee COVID-19 testing and monitor employees for symptoms.

For example, many employers are requiring COVID-19 tests or on-site temperature checks for employees coming to work. Although HIPAA does not apply, handling or recording that type of health information is risky territory, so it behooves employers to adhere to HIPAA-like steps and to document their activities carefully.

“Most employers are really not specifically covered by HIPAA, but it provides best practices that employers generally tend to follow when keeping PHI about employees,” Starkman said. “It should be kept under lock and key, in separate folders from personnel files.

“If you’re [a non-covered entity] with employee health information, you’re covered by different laws,” Starkman added. “Primarily, the ADA has rules regarding how employers need to keep the medical information of employees. They tend to track the HIPAA requirements in terms of keeping files and computer documents under lock and key and in a secure manner.”

Rutter said employers should turn to the ADA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for guidance on handling employee information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said there are three steps every business should take when implementing COVID-19 testing and monitoring procedures:

  • Document all policies and procedures.
  • Restrict access to employee information to trained employees.
  • Establish protocols in the event of a data breach or unauthorized access.

“Even non-covered entities should do this,” Rutter said. “Taking proactive steps is key for any employer.”

Adam Uzialko

Freelance editor at business.com. Responsible for managing freelance budget, editing freelance and contributor content, and drafting original articles. Also creates product and service reviews to assist business.com readers in buying decisions for their businesses. VP and co-founder of CannaContent, a digital marketing company dedicated to the cannabis, hemp, and CBD industries. Focused specifically on the content marketing arm of the company, creating blogs, press releases, and website copy for clients spanning the entire supply chain. Avid fan and indispensable ally of the feline species. Music lover, middling guitarist, and unprompted vocalist. Miniature painter who loves sci-fi and fantasy. Armchair political philosopher with a tendency to read old books written by men with unusually large beards. Ask me about all things writing!

What happens when medical professional commit fraud and lie to your employers? What should you do when medical professionals try to circumvent the patient and the law?

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Researchers find correlation between consistent mask-wearing and improved well-being

Source: News Medical Life Sciences
Dec 24 2020

Since the emergence of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), universal masking has been implemented in many countries.

Wearing face masks or coverings can help reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by preventing infectious respiratory droplets from COVID-19 positive individuals from spreading to others when they sneeze, cough, talk, or breathe.

A team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh, UK, found that consistent mask-wearing was associated with positive well-being among their participants.

Study: Face covering adherence is positively associated with better mental health and wellbeing: a longitudinal analysis of the CovidLife surveys. Image Credit: r.classen / ShutterstockStudy: Face covering adherence is positively associated with better mental health and wellbeing: a longitudinal analysis of the CovidLife surveys. Image Credit: r.classen / Shutterstock
Source: News Medical Life Sciences

The study, published on the pre-print medRxivserversurveyed more than 11,000 participants across the UK.

Face covering

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends wearing a face mask as part of a comprehensive strategy of mitigating the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide adequate protection, but it is effective along with other infection control measures.

The health agency also recommends that people wear a mask if they are around other people. When wearing the mask properly, it should cover the nose, mouth, and chin.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge the public to wear face coverings made with cloth. Surgical and medical masks are intended for healthcare workers. This is to avoid depleting the supply of this medical equipment, which is crucial in protecting frontline workers.

The study

The team conducted longitudinal analyses that collected data via the Qualtrics platform between April and June 2020. To arrive at the study findings, the researchers recruited 11,000 participants across the UK who completed the CovidLife surveys, which is an initiative set up by the University of Edinburgh to try and measure and understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s health and well-being. Using this data, the mental health outcomes of the participants were then evaluated.

The researchers found that adherence to face-covering guidelines had no association with poorer mental health. The team also found that people who wore masks consistently had better mental health than those who did not.

Hence, the study offers evidence to suggest that wearing face coverings or masks more often will not negatively impact mental health.

The study found that the odds of feeling anxious were 58% lower among those who always wore their masks. The likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms was 25% lower among people who wore their masks most of the time. Lastly, the odds of feeling lonely were 67% lower among those who always wore their masks.

Indeed, the opposite appears to be the case: stronger adherence to guidelines is associated with less anxiety and loneliness, and higher life satisfaction and wellbeing,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

They also emphasized that wearing face masks alone is insufficient in preventing infection with SARS-CoV-2. Adhering to infection control measures such as washing the hands regularly, maintaining social distance, and avoiding crowded places are crucial factors that should be applied alongside face coverings.

Conclusion

Our data provide strong evidence that following government guidance on face coverings is associated with better rather than poorer mental health and wellbeing,” the team concluded.

Correlation is not to be conflated with causation here. However, the study offers an interesting finding which, the researchers believe, provides evidence that challenges assumptions that consistent mask-wearing can negatively impact mental health and well-being. They thus suggest that their findings “could be an important motivator for continued advocacy by policymakers and adherence by members of the public.”

More research would be needed to fully understand this correlation and it should be weighed up against the ways in which consistent mask-wearing can have negative effects on one’s physical and mental well-being. In short, further study would clarify the implications of this finding.

*Important Notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.Journal reference:

  • Altschul, D., Ritchie, C., Kwong, A., Hartley, L., Nangle, C., Edwards, R. et al. (2020). Face covering adherence is positively associated with better mental health and wellbeing: a longitudinal analysis of the CovidLife surveys. medRxiv. doi.

The study findings agree with past studies that found that not adhering to the rule of wearing face masks can be viewed negatively by others. It reveals the other side to adherence behavior, even though stigmatization or discomfort of wearing masks do or do not harm mental health and well-being.

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo, BSNBy Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo, BSN
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master’s Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

Do you wear masks to prevent COVID? What do you do to prevent the spread of COVID? Why? Why not?

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Wisconsin hospital employee fired, arrested after ‘intentionally’ destroying 500 doses of Covid vaccine

Source: NBC News

“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed,” the hospital said.Dec. 31, 2020, 12:44 PM EST / Updated Dec. 31, 2020, 5:16 PM ESTBy Elizabeth Chuck and Ben Kesslen

A Wisconsin hospital employee has been fired and arrested after removing dozens of vials of the coronavirus vaccine from a pharmacy refrigerator, intentionally destroying more than 500 doses, a hospital investigation found.

The incident happened over the weekend at the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, north of Milwaukee. Grafton police announced the arrest of the pharmacist Thursday, but did not name the man or identify a motive.

Police said in a statement they arrested the former employee on suspicion of recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property. The damage he caused “was estimated to be between $8,000 and $11,000,” police said.

Initially, it appeared that the 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine — which must be kept between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit — had been left out overnight accidentally, hospital officials said. Each vial holds approximately 10 doses of the vaccine.

But Wednesday, the Aurora Medical Center announced the hospital worker involved “acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration.”

Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis.
Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis.Google Maps
Source: NBC News
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“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed,” the hospital said in a statement, adding that the employee has been terminated. “This was a violation of our core values.”

The Moderna vaccine has a 12-hour window once it has been thawed. Most doses of the vaccine that had been left out of the pharmacy refrigerator had to be discarded, although hospital officials later believed they could salvage some. After the hospital administered more than 50 doses of the vaccines that had been thawed, it learned the shots had actually been thawed twice, rendering them ineffective, a hospital official said Thursday at a press conference. The hospital said all those who received an ineffective vaccination have been notified and that those individuals are not at risk.

News of the spoiled vaccine doses in Wisconsin comes as the United States struggles to meet its goals for vaccination. So far, only about 2.8 million people have been vaccinated, far short of the 20 million the Trump administration had hoped for by year-end.

The vaccine is not yet widely available, and health care workers and nursing home residents have priority for the first doses.

On Wednesday, Advocate Aurora Health, the health system that Aurora Medical Center is part of, said it has vaccinated more than 21,000 health care workers so far.

The pharmacist is currently being held at Ozaukee County Jail.

Image: Elizabeth ChuckElizabeth Chuck

Elizabeth Chuck is a reporter for NBC News.Image: Ben KesslenBen Kesslen

Ben Kesslen is a reporter for NBC News. Matteo Moschella contributed.

Why do you think this medical professional destroyed the vaccine? Why? Why not?

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Seeing the COVID-19 Pandemic from Space

By Abigail Seadler,
NASA’s Earth Science Division

Source: NASA
Photos Source: NASA

Economic and social shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to noticeable changes in Earth’s environment, at least for the short term. NASA researchers are using satellite and ground-based observations to track these impacts on our airlandwater, and climate. These datasets have been collected in a free and openly available online dashboard.

Average NO2 levels over San Francisco for the past 5 years
Source: NASA
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NO2 levels over San Francisco in March 2020
Source: NASA
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Nitrogen Dioxide Levels Over San Francisco, California

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an air pollutant, decreased significantly over urban areas during the pandemic. The left image above shows average NO2 levels over San Francisco for the past 5 years, and the right image shows NO2 levels over San Francisco in March 2020. These data are from NASA’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI). Credit: NASA COVID-19 Dashboard

The NASA COVID-19 Dashboard features data collected by Earth-observing satellites, instruments aboard the International Space Station, and sensitive ground-based networks. The global maps are searchable by several categories of observable change, including economic indicators, such as shipping and construction activity, and environmental factors, such as water quality and climate variations. Investigate the data layers yourself or take a guided tour of how NASA Earth scientists are studying – and learning about – the pandemic’s effects on the Earth system.

NASA scientists use many different tools, datasets, and methods to investigate COVID-related changes in the Earth system. Comparing complementary datasets on the dashboard helps reveal a deeper story of how the environment is changing due to COVID-related shutdowns.

satellite data of air pollution over California airport

Thermal data from the joint NASA-U.S. Geological Survey Landsat satellite show decreases in the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon where urban areas are significantly warmer than adjacent rural areas, during the pandemic. The left image shows temperatures over San Francisco in April 2018, while the right image shows temperatures over San Francisco in April 2020. Scientists found that large parking lots, highway corridors, and commercial rooftops were on average 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit (5-8 degrees Celsius) cooler from March to May 2020, compared to previous years. Credit: NASA COVID-19 Dashboard.
Source: NASA
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For example, scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center discovered that emptier parking lots near closed, non-essential businesses, in combination with cleaner air from less surface transportation, meant that heat from the sun radiating off dark asphalt and cement surfaces did not stay trapped near the ground as long. Instead, heat dissipated quickly, cooling the urban environment. Comparing the data to pre-pandemic years, scientists found that large parking lots, highway corridors, and commercial rooftops were, on average, 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit (about 5-8 degrees Celsius) cooler from March to May 2020.

The NASA COVID-19 Dashboard will be updated with more data and discoveries throughout the pandemic and beyond.

What does this information from NASA tell us about the impact of human activity on global warming? How can you help improve the environment? Do you ride a bike or recycle? Are you a Community Champion…read more about the environment below.

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Medicinal Properties of Echinacea

echinacea plant shidonna raven garden and cook

Source: Healthline

With the oncoming winter and the lingering pandemic, taking advantage of the medicinal properties of echinacea is beneficial. Be careful to read the below medicinal benefits of echinacea. Use the below lose leaf tea to enjoy the medicinal benefits of echinacea. Stay healthy!

Echinacea Tea

Echinacea tea is an extremely popular remedy that’s said to prevent and shorten the common cold.

Evidence has shown that echinacea may help boost the immune system, which could help the body fight off viruses or infections (33Trusted Source).

Many studies have found that echinacea can shorten the duration of the common cold, lessen the severity of its symptoms or even prevent it (33Trusted Source).

However, results are conflicting, and most studies have not been well designed. This makes it difficult to tell if positive results are due to echinacea or random chance.

Therefore, it’s not possible to say definitively that taking echinacea will help with the common cold.

At the very least, this warm herbal drink may help soothe your sore throat or clear up your stuffy nose if you do feel a cold coming on (34Trusted Source).

SUMMARY: Echinacea tea is commonly used to prevent or shorten the duration of the common cold. While several studies have found it to be effective for this use, the evidence on the matter is conflicting.

What medicinal benefits are beneficial to you? How well do you think echinacea will help with preventing and curing a cold? How useful is echinacea during the autumn and winter months and during a pandemic?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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SKIP RICHTER: Give the gift of gardening this year

Bundle some herbs with an herb book or a group of terra cotta pots. A topiary rosemary can be planted outside after it’s done being a holiday decoration. 

Plants provide a link between people and across time. It may be a seedling from a special tree, some bulbs from the old family home place, a rose propagated from a bush at a grave site or an herb division from your own garden with a note about your friendship. 

The season for gift giving is upon us, and gardeners have a unique advantage. We know the joy of growing things and the way that plants and gardening can provide ongoing interest and satisfaction over time.

Gardening itself is a gift to give, and there are many ways to provide someone else this wonderful experience. Here are a few ideas to consider as you plan your holiday gifts this year, for both the gardeners and the wish-to-be gardeners on your list.

Indoor gardening

Houseplants are hot items ever since COVID left us spending more time at home. Local garden centers offer a nice variety of choices, while hard-to-find species can be purchased online. Check a plant’s light requirements, and when in doubt, go with lower light-tolerant species.

A windowsill herb garden may be a great fit for a bright kitchen window. Place a few herbs in small terra cotta pots and set them in a long narrow tray to catch any excess water.

If you want to take it up a notch, an indoor plant-growing system may be the perfect gift. These come as a tabletop system with grow lights. Often, these units are hydroponic or at least self-watering.

Seed starting indoors

There are a variety of kits for seed starting, from a simple tray with a clear lid to sturdy plant-growing trays with humidity domes that resemble a mini greenhouse for starting seeds and rooting transplants.

Include a bag of seed-starting medium, some seed packets, plant labels and a when-to-plant chart that usually can be obtained free in print or online from the recipient’s local AgriLife Extension office.

Good lighting is the key to growing great transplants, so consider including a light with a stand to help ensure success.

Gardening starter basket

Put together some seed packets, plant labels, gloves, hand tools, hose end watering wand and a simple how-to gardening book written for the recipient’s area of the country. Include some free planting guides from the recipient’s land grant university’s extension system or local extension office. For an attractive package, place it all in a harvesting basket or gardening tool bag.

Share your garden

I am struck by the number of times a gardener has said, “That plant was given to me by an old friend,” or “This rose came from a cutting we took from my grandmother’s home.”

Plants provide a link between people and across time. It may be a seedling from a special tree, some bulbs from the old family home place, a rose propagated from a bush at a grave site or an herb division from your own garden with a note about your friendship.

You get the idea. The possibilities are limitless for giving someone a living reminder of your friendship or a connection to family history that will last long after all the other gifts of the holidays are gone.https://8d6fdb908466db4cd903b38ca49a6ab1.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

A theme garden

Bundle some herbs with an herb book or a group of terra cotta pots. A topiary rosemary can be planted outside after it’s done being a holiday decoration. Gather plants and/or seeds for a butterfly garden and include a book on butterfly gardening. How about a group of seeds/plants along with a book on cut flower gardening? Perhaps a bird house or feeder?

Give gardening wisdom

Every gardener has something to learn and those new to gardening may enjoy a book or magazine on the basics. Printed materials are great for sharpening their skills over the upcoming weeks of winter in preparation for a great spring garden.

Look for materials that are written for their area, as garden writing is often very regional in application. We have many great books and magazines written by Texans for Texas to choose from, such as Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac or Neil Sperry’s Lone Star Gardening. A magazine such as Texas Gardener is another good example.

An exception to “read local” rule would be topics that are not region-specific such as how to propagate plants or prune a tree.

Quality equipment and accessories

A good quality tool will last for years and make gardening work easier and more enjoyable. I appreciate well-made pruning shears, a quality spade or garden fork, a cobrahead weeder, a soil knife (hori hori) or a specialty hoe. Accessories such as a kneeling pad — or my favorite, a folding kneeling/sitting bench — are nice, too.

Gifts of your time

In addition to giving a plant, you can give the planting. Some folks may be physically unable to do some gardening tasks. With your gift plant, include a coupon good for “planting this rose bush and visiting over a cup of coffee.” That time spent will be more important for many folks than any store-bought gift they received during the holidays.

This holiday season give gardening, a gift that will grow in the hearts of your friends and family.


Robert “Skip” Richter is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Horticulture Agent for Brazos County, 2619 Texas 21 W., Bryan, Texas 77803. For local gardening information and events, visit brazosmg.com. Gardening questions? Call Skip at 823-0129 or email rrichter@ag.tamu.edu.

How many gifts can you give that keep giving and bare fruit? Why do you think gardening and indoor gardening has become so popular during COVID 19? Which plants do you currently have indoors (houseplants)?

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Doctors and nurses want more data before championing vaccines to end the pandemic

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Health systems are launching bids to assure their medical workers that vaccines will be safe and effective

By Christopher Rowland November 21, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EST
Source: The Washington Post

Marion Whicker from the Department of Defense explains the components and safety equipment that will be in ancillary kits used for the Pfizer vaccine. (The Washington Post)

Doctors and nurses, coping with the daily risk of coronavirus exposure, are expected to get top priority to receive vaccines that could become available as soon as next month. But it’s an open question how many will seize their place at the front of the line.

Large health systems, medical societies and the federal government are launching an effort to persuade front-line health-care providers to take novel vaccines that were developed, and are likely to be granted emergency approval, in record time.

In Boston, major teaching hospitals are rolling out educational videos aimed at assuring medical staff the process of developing coronavirus vaccines will result in safe and effective shots. At New York’s Mount Sinai Health System, a leading infectious-disease doctor said he probably will distribute photos of himself getting a shot in a bid to build confidence among front-line staff.

Hospitals in urban areas are taking additional measures to make sure ethnic and racial minority members, who form a large percentage of their front-line nursing and support staffs, receive rapid information about the safety and effectiveness of the new vaccines.AD

Winning buy-in from doctors and nurses is crucial to gaining broader public support for the vaccines, based on the high degree of trust placed in them by patients. The hesitancy of some health-care workers is attracting attention as the first two vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, near deployment. Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, filed their Food and Drug Administration application for emergency use on Friday.

Polling last month showed that 58 percent of U.S. adults were willing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. A Pew Research Center poll in September found 51 percent of Americans said they would definitely or probably get a coronavirus vaccine.

Medical experts said attitudes among doctors, nurses and the public could shift quickly as new data are revealed. But government, academic, and health-care officials say that significant numbers of providers want more data about the vaccine before it is deployed. Some of the information is expected to be released next month by the FDA.AD

report released Thursday by the University of California at Los Angeles researchers said that 66 percent of Los Angeles health-care workers who responded to an online questionnaire (not a randomized sample) said they would delay taking a vaccine. The American Nurses Association, a national professional organization, said one-third of its members do not intend to take the vaccine, and an additional third are undecided.

New Jersey said last week that its data showed that 66 percent of the state’s doctors planned to receive the vaccine. Among professionals contacted by the state, “some did not want to be in the first round, so they could wait and see if there are potential side effects,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli said at a Nov. 9 news briefing.

“Of those who said they would not take the vaccine, many said they would be more than willing to get the vaccine at a later date, when more data is available,” she said.AD

The hesitancy among doctors and nurses is not the same as the anti-vaccine movement, which medical experts consider a fringe trend fueled by misinformation and conspiracy theories on social media. Health professionals tend to be advocates of vaccines, including seasonal flu shots, shingles vaccines, and childhood inoculations for measles, mumps and rubella.

But in the case of the coronavirus shots, health-care leaders say President Trump’s frequent promises about vaccines have raised doubts about the objectivity of agency reviews, as have the speed of the manufacturers’ clinical trials, and unfamiliarity with the novel techniques used by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to trigger natural antibodies.

“We are vaccines’ greatest champions, but this is the first time that a new vaccine has been developed at a rapid pace in the middle of a pandemic, as opposed to a much longer timeline,” Susan Bailey, a physician in Fort Worth and president of the American Medical Association, said in an interview.AD

“What I hear from physicians is some of the same concerns that are expressed by everyone. They worry the process has been politicized. They are concerned because they haven’t seen any published data yet. And they don’t feel comfortable making the decision one way or another until they see the evidence,” Bailey said.

Medical professionals are “the most trusted source for health information,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late last month during a meeting to discuss national distribution plans. “Concerns among health-care providers is a risk for overall vaccine confidence.” The CDC did not respond to a request for comment.

After the fastest development ever, the FDA could grant emergency authorization for the two vaccines as soon as next month. That would begin an immediate push to vaccinate 20 million people before the end of the year and hundreds of millions in 2021.AD

Health professionals must quickly learn the science behind a pair of mRNA vaccines that work differently from traditional vaccines and will need to help convince the public that the vaccines are safe and effective, said Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a U.S. assistant secretary of health during the Obama administration.

“A doctor who can’t commit to a vaccine personally may find it difficult, if not impossible, to advise their patients to do so,” he said.

“Operation Warp Speed — just that name connotes urgency and timeliness, but could bring to mind for many a fear of the process being rushed,” Koh said. “And we have seen the administration contradicting their own top public health officials and trying to accelerate a process that we know has to be done with all deliberate speed.”

Pfizer and Moderna have provided data from their large-scale Phase 3 trials only via news releases, which contained the highly promising news that both vaccines were 90 percent effective or more and have not presented any serious safety concerns.AD

Bailey, Koh and other leaders said it is crucial for the companies to publish full trial results as soon as possible to win approval from physicians.

In coming weeks, the FDA and the companies will be analyzing data from the trials in more detail. The agency has said it will require two months of follow-up safety analysis in trial participants before it will consider issuing emergency-use authorizations — still much faster than the typical minimum follow-up of six months. An FDA committee of independent advisers also will review available efficacy and safety evidence in a public hearing before the EUA is issued. Pfizer did not respond to requests for comment. Moderna said it plans to release more data that should satisfy concerns.

“We believe that transparency with respect to mRNA-1273 scientific results (especially as increasing amounts of data become available) will be the strongest antidote over time to individual uncertainties or anxieties,” Ray Jordan, Moderna’s chief corporate affairs officer, said in an email. “We expect to publish results in peer-reviewed journals as data sufficiently mature over time, just as we have with the multiple evaluated outcomes from our Phase I trial.”

Bailey, the AMA president, said that as an allergist and immunologist, she frequently receives questions about the new vaccines.AD

“When my patients ask me, I say once I’ve seen the studies and feel confident that no corners have been cut, and no steps have been skipped, and we have a safe and effective vaccine, I’ll be the first in line,” she said.

In an AMA video released Nov. 2, Bailey said the number of physicians expressing hesitancy was “unprecedented” and said it posed “real risk” to public confidence in vaccines. Since the video was released, Trump was defeated in his bid for a second term, and Pfizer and Moderna reported that their vaccines worked in more than 90 percent of people who received them.

Once full data sets are available, if they show a sound safety profile, doctors will come around, Bailey said in an interview.“Most of us are not sitting around reading journals right now. We’re literally trying to save lives,” she said, “but when that data is available, I think the uptake will be quite rapid.”AD

At the Association of American Medical Colleges, Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney said many questions remain about the effectiveness of the vaccines, and how long immunity will last. But the promising Pfizer and Moderna results, plus the outcome of the presidential election, will rapidly shift the landscape, he predicted.

“We’re past November 3rd, and the perception that the vaccine was being force-fed for an election win is no longer an issue,” McKinney said. “I suspect you are going to see very different numbers on hesitancy. I think you are going to see a huge change in the perceived reluctance to get vaccinated.”

The CDC said 98 percent of doctors and 92 percent of nurses were vaccinated for influenza during last winter’s flu season. Many hospital systems mandate staff receive flu shots, but similar directives are not expected for coronavirus vaccines — at least not immediately — because they will still be considered experimental.

Introducing new vaccines is not easy during a global health emergency and a national political debate stoked by a president known to frequently distort, discredit and make false claims about science. The national pandemic response has been marked by emotional and confusing political battles.

In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) formed his own panel of experts to review vaccines that are authorized by the FDA, saying in September, “I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion.” Trump responded by saying that the federal government will not send a coronavirus vaccine to New York when it becomes available.

The president repeatedly promised during his reelection campaign that a vaccine would be approved for the United States before the Nov. 3 election. That did not happen. Now, convincing Americans and the medical community that the first vaccines are safe and effective will fall to Trump’s lame-duck administration and then to President-elect Joe Biden.

“These mRNA vaccinations have never been approved before, so there is no reliable track record of safety. We should expect to set the bar higher for safety,” said Jeffrey A. Hirschfield, a pediatrician in St. Petersburg, Fla., who has discussed his reservations on Twitter. “It typically takes five to 10 years to successfully develop and vet vaccine candidates, especially those relying on new technologies.”

Marie Ritacco, a longtime nurse at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., and vice president of a state nurses union, said many nurses will continue to rely on personal protective equipment and strict anti-infection procedures rather than be in the first wave of health-care workers receiving coronavirus vaccines.

“I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I believe in vaccinations. But I’ve never seen a process this fast,” she said. “I don’t think we have enough data to show that it is safe, will not cause harm and will be highly effective. We drive all these decisions on data, and the data is just not there yet.”

Vaccines that use mRNA, or messenger RNA, work by carrying a genetic message into the body that signals cells to produce the novel coronavirus’s distinctive spike protein, triggering an immune response that creates specific antibodies. Traditional vaccines depend on inactivated virus to accomplish that mission, or some use a viral vector such as a harmless cold virus engineered to contain the genetic instructions for the spike protein.

Health systems nationwide are preparing to distribute the vaccine, and some are beginning to prepare their workforces.

Marci Drees, the infection prevention officer and hospital epidemiologist at ChristianaCare, a hospital system based in Wilmington, Del., said rank-and-file workers will need to be reassured about the safety and efficacy of a vaccine from within their own systems. Guidance from the CDC and the FDA will be helpful, but faith in government reviews has been shaken and cannot be the sole source of information, she said.

“A lot of it will be on the ground level, because there has been so much distrust in general,” Drees said. “Being very transparent about what we know, and what we don’t know, is really important.”

She said she receives frequent questions from ChristianaCare medical staff about the two-month safety follow-up window that the FDA is relying on to assess the risk of adverse events.

“We are not going to have long-term safety data on these vaccines, but we do know that most side effects occur within the first few weeks after vaccination,” so the FDA’s two-month threshold should give people confidence, Drees said.

In Boston, the large Mass General Brigham health system, which encompasses large academic medical centers including Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, as well as community hospitals, has produced videos for its 80,000 employees.

The videos feature assurances from some of the system’s physicians that a vaccine will not be released unless it is known to be safe after thorough reviews by FDA scientists, as well as those outside the government who serve on independent advisory committees.

“We know there are concerns about whether politics played a role in vaccine approval, and we wanted to clearly communicate that there are independent groups that participate in the process that we trust and respect,” said Paul Biddinger, a Mass General physician and the director of emergency preparedness for the broader Mass General Brigham system.

Academic medical centers are expected to be the earliest sites for distribution of mRNA vaccines because they have enough of the ultracold freezers required for their storage, as well as research scientists who can help interpret clinical trial data for their communities.

It is vital that physicians and nurses at these institutions show that they are willing to take the vaccines first, not just to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in a high-risk environment, but also to demonstrate to the community that they stand behind the vaccines, Biddinger said.

That is especially true for vulnerable groups that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus, including African Americans, he said, who may mistrust the U.S. health-care system, given historical examples of unethical medical experiments that targeted Black people and caused harm.

Initial scarcity of supply will result in a gradual escalation of experience with the vaccines. By the time hundreds of millions of doses are available for everyone in the nation, Biddinger said, health systems should be ready to strongly recommend they be used more broadly.

“We think it will snowball with increasing availability of product,” he said, “and people can look back, and we can say we have vaccinated hundreds of thousands, millions of people, and we have not seen adverse events, and therefore we should do this because we want to save lives and get us out of the pandemic.”

At Mount Sinai in New York, Bernard Camins, an infectious-disease doctor who is Mount Sinai’s director of prevention and is helping coordinate the hospital system’s vaccine distribution, said the coronavirus vaccination for medical workers will be modeled on efforts to push the annual influenza vaccine.

“I’m surprised considering how bad this pandemic has been that [vaccine hesitancy] is equivalent to 50 percent” among Mount Sinai health care staff, Camins said during a webinar Thursday sponsored by national health-care provider EHE Health, calling that a “pessimistic” estimate based on his anecdotal conversations. “Unfortunately, it’s the mixed messages they have gotten.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the American Nurses Association as a union. It is a professional organization. The story has been updated.

Why do you think medical professionals are also hesitant to take the COVID vaccine? Why do you think they want more time and information? What are your thoughts about COVID 19 vaccines?

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GlaxoSmithKline Most Heavily Fined Drug Company


Source: Pain News Network
By Pat Anson, PNN Editor

The pharmaceutical industry has long been criticized for engaging in illegal or unethical activities, such as fraud, kickbacks and price gouging. A new study published in JAMA shines a light on the scale of the problem, finding that Big Pharma paid over $30 billion in financial penalties for illegal activities in the United States.

Researchers looked at state and federal settlements from 2003 to 2016 and found that almost every large pharmaceutical company had paid a fine for illegal activity. The biggest transgressor was GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which paid nearly $9.8 billion to settle 27 cases brought against it for bribery, corruption, improper marketing, pricing violations and selling adulterated drugs. In one settlement alone, GSK was fined $3 billion for encouraging doctors to prescribe its antidepressants to children.  

The fines paid by GSK were over three times higher than the amounts paid by Pfizer ($2.9 billion) and Johnson & Johnson ($2.6 billion) during the study period. Researchers say only four of the 26 drug companies they analyzed were not assessed a penalty.

TOP 10 MOST HEAVILY FINED DRUG COMPANIES

  1. GlaxoSmithKline $9.8 billion
  2. Pfizer $2.9 billion
  3. Johnson & Johnson $2.6 billion
  4. Abbott Laboratories $2.5 billion
  5. Merck $2.1 billion
  6. Eli Lilly $1.8 billion
  7. Schering-Plough $1.6 billion
  8. Wyeth $1.6 billion
  9. Bristol Myers Squibb $1.4 billion
  10. Novartis $1.2 billion
bigstock-Caduceus-Medical-Symbol-Chrome-7762432.jpg
Source: Pain News Network
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“Among the large pharmaceutical companies included in this study, 85% had evidence of financial penalties for illegal activities. Given the scope and nature of the illegal activities involving financial penalties, physicians and regulators should exhibit vigilance over the activities of large pharmaceutical firms,” wrote lead author Denis Arnold, PhD, a professor of business ethics at Belk College of Business, University of North Caroline at Charlotte.

“Four firms were not found to have penalties for illegal activities during the sample period. This may indicate an ability for illegal activity to be undetected, although these firms may instead have effective ethics and compliance programs.”

Because the study period ended in 2016, it did not include any recent settlements with drug companies involving opioid litigation. Nor did it cover fines paid outside the U.S., such as the $490 million fine that GSK paid for bribing Chinese doctors to prescribe its medications.

“This has been a deeply disappointing matter for GSK,” chief executive Sir Andrew Witty said in a formal apology to the Chinese government in 2014.

Not much has changed at GSK over the years. This year the company agreed to pay $4.5 million in fines in Australia for marketing and price violations involving the pain relief gel Voltaren.  The British pharmaceutical giant was also recently fined $2.8 million by Romania for failing to supply the country with asthma medication.

Drug company executives rarely serve prison time for illegal activities and the large fines do not appear to be much of a deterrent against unethical behavior. The nearly $9.8 billion paid by GSK amounts to less than 2 percent of its total revenues during the study period. On average, GSK’s illegal activities went on for over seven years before the company stopped them, according to the JAMA study.

GSK did not respond to a request for comment for this story.    

Fraud Alert for Speaker Programs

In recent years, federal watchdogs have become increasingly concerned about the use of speaker fees, free meals, entertainment and other kickbacks paid by healthcare companies to promote their drugs and medical devices. In the last three years, companies paid nearly $2 billion to healthcare providers for speaker-related services.

In a special fraud alert released this week, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services warned against the practice, saying high-priced speaker programs “may be subject to increased scrutiny.” The OIG cited cases where speaker programs were held at wineries, stadiums and restaurants where expensive meals and alcohol were served at no charge to attendees.

“OIG is skeptical about the educational value of such programs. Our investigations have revealed that, often, HCPs (healthcare providers) receive generous compensation to speak at programs offered under circumstances that are not conducive to learning or to speak to audience members who have no legitimate reason to attend,” the report warns.

“Furthermore, studies have shown that HCPs who receive remuneration from a company are more likely to prescribe or order that company’s products. This remuneration to HCPs may skew their clinical decision making in favor of their own and the company’s financial interests, rather than the patient’s best interests.”

Why do you think these companies were fined? Do you take any medications from these companies? Why? Why not?

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US administers 1st doses of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

The FDA authorized Pfizer’s vaccine last week.

By Ivan Pereira, 14 December 2020, 09:43
Source: ABC News

Why are people hesitant to trust a COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines are proven to reduce deaths and help end pandemics, but the historic speed that the coronavirus vaccines have been developed has made some people hesitant to take them.

A critical care nurse from Northwell Long Island Jewish Medical Center was vaccinated at 9:23 a.m. during a livestreamed event with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “You didn’t flinch,” Cuomo said.

PHOTO: Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester, Dec. 14, 2020, in New York.
Mark Lennihan/APMark Lennihan/APSandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester, Dec. 14, 2020, in New York.

The University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky will receive its first delivery of the vaccine at 9:30 a.m. and at 10:30 a.m., three doctors and two nurses will receive the vaccine.

Other locations in Connecticut, New York, Iowa, Washington, D.C., and Michigan are also expected to administer vaccine doses on Monday.

The rollout comes less than a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine for emergency use for Americans over 16. The order from the FDA led to the pharmaceutical company shipping 2.9 million doses to 636 sites across the country.

Pfizer, which produced the vaccine alongside German company BioNTech, began shipping the doses from its Michigan warehouse Sunday directly to those sites, which were pre-selected by governors and local health officials.

Pfizer said it would roll out a second batch of 2.9 million doses shortly after the first batch. The U.S. government is opting to keep 500,000 doses in reserve to address any shipping or distribution mishaps.

The vaccine, which requires two doses for full inoculation, began distribution in the United Kingdom last week.

The vaccine is the first in the country to use the genetic technology mRNA instead of viral components. Pfizer claimed its trials showed the vaccine was 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

The FDA will hold a hearing on Dec. 17 with Moderna, which also developed an mRNA-based vaccine, before possibly giving emergency authorization for its deployment.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 52 COVID-19 vaccines in human trials, and 162 vaccines in preclinical development.

The vaccine developments come as the U.S. is in the midst of the deadliest period of the pandemic, according to health data. America leads the world with over 16 million cases and close to 300,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The seven-day averages of new daily cases, 211,494, hospitalizations, 106,656, and deaths, 2,427, were at record highs on Dec. 13, according to health data from the COVID Tracking Project.

ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos, Sony Salzman and Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

This report was featured in the Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

How do you feel about the COVID 19 vaccine? Many people are asking others what they think of receiving the vaccine. How does the COVID 19 vaccine impact the pandemic?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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