Better Living Through Well Being
A feeling of optimism and hope for life returning to normal has thankfully been on the increase since the approval and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. In the U.S., three, and soon a fourth, vaccines are in current distribution. A few months from now, realistically anyone in the U.S. who wants the vaccination will be able to have it. Yet not everyone shares the same feeling of optimism. We are still in the midst of uncertain challenges - - new variants emerge as the virus continues to mutate into more resistant and infectious forms, hesitancy to receive the vaccine jeopardizes reaching the desired 80 to 85 percent “herd immunity” among the general population, and a degree of lockdown among businesses persists where an adequate feeling of safety among the public is necessary to reopen.
For many this hopeful normalcy is rather like a mirage that moves further away as you approach it even though it sits clearly on the horizon.
A recent human resources survey recorded sentiments and beliefs among American workers toward getting the COVID-19 vaccine and found two out of five workers have some hesitancy. Five distinct vaccine personas emerged from the study: Hardcore anti-vaxxers (6 percent); The unsure (24 percent); COVID-affected (22 percent); Remote and stressed (23 percent); and Hardcore pro-vaxxers (25 percent).
The research also showed many American workers are still either hesitant or opposed to getting the vaccine based on misconceptions about its cost and effectiveness. The best employer strategy to use in attaining higher rates of vaccination leading to better protection in the workplace is to aim to correct misconceptions and target the “moveable middle” of undecided employees in the HR communications approach.
A global controversy over the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been resolved following a short pause to investigate whether a rare blood clotting disorder was directly a result of the vaccine itself. This could not be proven with certainty, and the benefits of using the vaccine continue to be seen as outweighing the possible risks.
Because such disease occurs spontaneously, a cause-and-effect relationship may be impossible to prove. This is partly due to the fact that the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself may cause damage beyond the lungs, such as heart inflammation, acute kidney disease, neurological malfunction, blood clots, intestinal damage and liver problems, all of which are more difficult to detect in safety trials.
What all of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in use in the U.S. have in common (including the AstraZeneca vaccine still awaiting EUA approval) is that they all cause human cells to manufacture the virus’s spike protein, which induces the immune system to make antibodies against it. There are still unresolved questions about whether the spike protein itself can cause harm after receiving the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, or AstraZeneca vaccines.
Health officials note that some 31 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a vaccine, so these blood clotting disorder events are rare. Even so, people are warned to watch for any bruising, rashes, nosebleeds, or bleeding from the gums after being vaccinated. There is at present no way to screen for this rare blood clotting disorder in advance.
The Biden administration and private companies are working to develop a standard way of handling credentials -- often referred to as “vaccine passports” -- that would allow Americans to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as businesses try to reopen. The White House has stated their role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people’s privacy. The federal government will not store citizens’ vaccine data or status.
One private company in North Carolina has been providing COVID-19 vaccination IDs since January. Their “Real Vaccination ID Cards” are embedded with industry-leading forgery-prevention technology to combat counterfeiting and help people prove their COVID-19 vaccination status.
The effort has gained momentum amid President Biden’s pledge that the nation will start to regain normalcy by this summer and with a growing number of companies -- from cruise lines to sports teams -- saying they will require proof before opening their doors again.
Other articles of interest in this TMIS eNewsletter for Spring 2021:
* New rapid high-throughput test can detect multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in two-and-a-half hours across hospital and care settings
* Data reveals a surge in goodwill toward healthcare organizations through philanthropy during 2020
* Digital app provides personalized nutritional guidance for better food choices to overcome underlying conditions that increase risk of severe illness from COVID-19
* Licensed Hypnotherapist is seeing increased level of clients seeking help for anxiety due to fears about COVID-19, needles, lockdowns, their kid’s education, the economy, and current events
* New research from the travel industry reveals the beginning distribution stage of COVID-19 vaccines makes Americans feel more hopeful and optimistic about traveling in 2021
* Digitized self-assessments help retirement home residents plan their return to independence post COVID-19
* Nationwide study reveals that COVID-19 pandemic has made many Americans more open to talk about their wishes and values for end-of-life care
* Latest study of newest discovered organ system “The Interstitium” reveals that interstitial spaces are continuous, creating a potential superhighway through the body
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From the Front Page of TMIS News
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Buck HR survey finds U.S. workforce 'sharply divided' on COVID-19 vaccination
New York, New York
Buck, an integrated HR and benefits consulting, technology, and administration services firm, released findings from its survey report indicating that nearly one-third (30%) of U.S. employees plan to take a "wait and see" approach to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, with members of the same group describing it as "not worth the risk."
The report, "Talking to employees about vaccine hesitancy" surveyed 820 full time workers at U.S. companies between February 25 and March 1. Leading Indicator Systems, which provides human capital research, conducted the study.
According to the report, approximately two in five American workers have at least some "anti-vaxxer" sentiments and 40 percent "don't trust the government's oversight of this vaccine." Brand preference based on perceived effectiveness was also a concern: More than half (52%) say they are "waiting for their preferred choice of vaccine" from among the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J options.
The study also identified misconceptions about the perceived cost of the vaccine, which is provided at no out-of-pocket charge to the recipient. The majority (55%) believe there is an out-of-pocket cost for getting vaccinated, with the median cost estimated at $7. Fully one-quarter (25%) believe this cost will be more than $60.
Blood Clotting Needs to Be Watched with All COVID Vaccines, States the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
More than a dozen countries worldwide temporarily stopped administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine, notes the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), because of deaths from blood clotting disorders, with either clots or excessive bleeding. Some patients experienced the extremely rare event of clots in the veins that drain blood from the brain (venous sinus thrombosis).
Most countries resumed use after a short pause, when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the shot isn't associated with an increase in the overall risk of developing blood clots, and the benefits of using the vaccine continue to outweigh its possible risks:
"The number of reported events exceeds those expected, and causality although not confirmed, cannot therefore be excluded. However, given the rarity of the events, and the difficulty of establishing baseline incidence since COVID-19 itself is resulting in hospitalizations with thromboembolic complications, the strength of any association is uncertain," the Agency stated.
In Germany and other countries use has now been suspended for persons under age 55 or 60.
The U.S. has not yet granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the AstraZeneca product. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna products being rolled out here, it does not use mRNA. Instead, it uses a chimpanzee adenovirus whose DNA has been genetically engineered to code for the spike protein on the surface of the COVID-causing virus. The chimpanzee virus is able to enter human cells and uncoat its DNA but cannot replicate.
All three vaccines cause human cells to manufacture the spike protein, which then induces the immune system to make antibodies to that protein. If the person is then exposed to the virus, the immune system will recognize the threat and mount a defense that should at least minimize symptoms, AAPS explains.
Control Over Personal Data Developing as Key Concern with Vaccine Passports
Wilmington, North Carolina
With the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations well underway, many organizations in the United States are now turning their attention to vaccine passports -- a way for individuals to prove they've received the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes the White House, which in March, suggested vaccine passports come in both a physical and digital form, include a scannable code, and are designed to protect an individual's private data and information.
While many companies are scrambling to build such a product, one North Carolina-based company has been providing COVID-19 vaccination IDs since January that not only match this description, but also ensure an individual's data is never sold, abused or misused. Known as the Real Vaccination ID, these driver's license-sized cards feature a scannable QR code, provide verified physical and digital proof of vaccination and have protections in place to ensure individuals maintain complete control and ownership over their personal data.
The originator of the cards, CastleBranch, is an infectious disease screening company with 20+ years of experience reviewing over 35 million medical documents and vaccine records, as well as an accredited consumer reporting agency with strict processes in place to protect sensitive personal information from abuse and misuse. Real Vaccination ID has been endorsed by both the Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (OADN) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the nation's two largest nursing healthcare associations, representing over 80 percent of nursing education in the country.
Hackensack Meridian Health's Center for Discovery and Innovation Develops Advanced Test to Track and Diagnose COVID-19 Variants
Nutley, New Jersey
Experts at the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) have developed a high-throughput test that can detect multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in two-and-a-half hours, a major advance in tracking the virus and in treating patients.
The test can detect the known UK, Brazil, and South African variants, as well as others containing the key E484K mutation, which are gaining prominence as the virus evolves. The global health community is in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible as variants threaten to create new surges. The study, which was co-authored with scientists from the New York Genome Center, was published online in medRxiv.
"The Center for Discovery and Innovation is again leading the way in creating breakthroughs that will help defeat this pandemic,'' said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, the chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. "The CDI was created for this purpose – to deliver effective solutions in real-time that will benefit patients, our communities and well beyond.''
The results likely indicate that variants are increasing in prevalence in hospitals and communities across New Jersey – and that mass vaccination is more important than ever, since the vaccines remain effective against all forms of SARS-CoV-2 to date.
"Certain virus variants are concerning because they are resistant or less responsive to current first-line treatments involving monoclonal antibody cocktails," said David Perlin, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer and senior vice president of the CDI. "Our rapid through-put test allows doctors to treat those with COVID-19 who have specific variants with more effective therapies."
The CDI's test, which assessed samples from New Jersey patients from December 2020 through February 2021, found the virus variants increasing in prominence. Among 435 nasal swab samples at eight hospitals and other care sites across the Hackensack Meridian Health network, the E484K variant was found at a rate of 12 percent of all samples in February 2021. The N501Y variant followed in prevalence in 2021 with 11 percent.
These findings are from a variety of care settings within Hackensack Meridian Health and located throughout New Jersey. Since the variants were detected in multiple locations, it's highly likely that the variants are going undetected in other parts of the state.
These "immune-escape" variants carrying the E484K mutation are also concerning because they have been linked in other countries with re-infection.
Blackbaud Data Highlights the Impact of Healthcare Philanthropy During COVID-19
Charleston, South Carolina
Blackbaud, the world's leading cloud software company powering social good, has released data that illustrates the impact of philanthropy on the healthcare industry during 2020.
Analysis of Blackbaud Raiser's Edge NXT data from U.S. healthcare organizations that raised more than $1M in at least one of the past three calendar years shows that:
* Healthcare organizations raised $4.9B in cash in 2020, a year-over-year increase of 2.7%
* In-kind donations to healthcare organizations increased by 61% in 2020
* Healthcare cash-giving increased by 2.7% in 2020, but total transactions decreased by 6.7% indicating that larger gifts are coming from fewer donors
"With health systems and hospitals already operating on thin margins at the onset of the pandemic, pausing elective surgeries to enter the fight against COVID-19 made philanthropic dollars more important than ever," said Page Bullington, president and general manager, Healthcare and Foundation Solutions, Blackbaud. "Healthcare organizations experienced an outpouring of public support in 2020, and with healthcare currently universally top of mind, we're witnessing an inflection point in history that is providing exponential opportunity for healthcare philanthropy."
COVID-19 prompted many fundraising changes, especially in the healthcare sector. Community hospitals experienced a surge in goodwill, resulting in an influx of in-kind donations ranging from meals for healthcare workers to personal protective equipment (PPE). In Blackbaud Raiser's Edge NXT, healthcare organizations recorded more than $170M in in-kind donations in 2020, compared to a 28% decline in in-kind donations in all other sectors combined over the previous three years. This increase in donations was largely coordinated by hospital foundation staff who stepped up to help in any way possible.
Healthcare fundraisers were among the first to be shifted to remote work and may continue to rely on virtual meetings and donor tours in the future, accelerating the idea of e-philanthropy—a full strategy shift to a virtual mindset. In addition to online cultivation and stewardship, healthcare organizations saw an increase of 11.7% in online giving according to the Blackbaud Institute's 2020 Charitable Giving Report.
Lifesum Continues Rapid Growth, Empowers Users to Take Control of Their Health From Home During Pandemic
Los Angeles, California
Lifesum, the world's leading digital nutrition company, has announced its popular mobile app now has more than 50 million registered users. Spanning 250 countries and engaging in 11 different languages, Lifesum app users receive personalized nutritional guidance based on their individual goals and lifestyle.
Lifesum strives to provide quality, expert-backed recommendations for people to become healthier through better food choices. As such, the company also today announced its Health Advisory Board. Tasked with helping the company remain innovative while providing additional expertise in fields impacting nutritional success, the Health Advisory Board will evolve along with the needs of Lifesum's user base.
"The global pandemic has shone a light on the challenges of our healthcare systems globally. This especially became clear as we learned that many of the underlying conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19-obesity, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension to name a few-are all directly related to nutrition," said Marcus Gners, Co-founder and CSO of Lifesum.
A good diet can significantly reduce the risk of several diseases as well as impact our emotional state, mental clarity and even appearance. However nutrition is difficult to navigate because it is dependent on several individual factors.
Las Vegas Hypnotherapist Sees Spike in Anxiety Calls Despite COVID Vaccine Deployment in Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
A Las Vegas hypnotherapist has seen a dramatic rise in calls for anxiety relief, confounding expectations that vaccination would help allay Nevadans' pandemic-related fears. Before the pandemic lockdowns shuttered his hypnosis practice in early 2020, the majority of Kevin Cole's clients came to him to stop smoking, with the rest seeking help for anxiety relief or to get over heartbreak or past relationships.
When the Las Vegas Hypnosis Center finally re-opened for virtual sessions last summer, the vast majority of Cole's clients were seeking help for fear, anxiety, sleeplessness, and repetitive, worrisome thoughts. "This isn't surprising, given the uncertainty about the pandemic and the lockdowns at that time," said Cole.
Now that several COVID-19 vaccines are available, the Las Vegas hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner expected to get back to his stop smoking work. Instead, anxious clients are keeping him busy both in person and via virtual sessions. "I've never seen anything like it. Anxiety is through the roof, and many people who've never been anxious before are suffering terribly with repetitive thoughts about the virus, a fear of needles that keeps them from getting vaccinated, the lockdowns, their kids' education, the economy, current events -- people are just crazed after being locked up for a year," he says.
Cole believes clients are attracted to hypnosis because it's a fast-acting, drug-free method people can use to rid themselves of negative thinking patterns that manifest as anxiety and trouble sleeping. For a limited time Cole is offering free access to his hypnosis audio MP3, "Deep Sleep," to help people who are kept awake by anxious thoughts. Most users say they've never heard the end of the recording, because they quickly and easily fall asleep long before the audio ends. The free hypnosis sleep recording is available at https://LasVegasHypnosisCenter.com/deepsleepmp3.
New Booking.com Research Shines Light on U.S. Travelers' Optimism and Confirms That There Is Hope on the Horizon for Getting Back to Travel in 2021
New York, New York
The impact that COVID-19 has had on our daily lives caused the past year to be one of the hardest ever to endure. Maintaining distance and staying home has become part of the new normal. While tough days may still be ahead, travelers are finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the roll-out of vaccines and development of other break-through medical advances. New research from Booking.com reveals that even after months of restrictions our appetite to explore the world remains undiminished. Thanks to the unwavering commitment of the science and medical communities, almost three-quarters (71%*) of Americans say that the beginning distribution stage of COVID-19 vaccines makes them feel more hopeful and optimistic about traveling in 2021. As we look to a better future igniting and reimagining travel, with hope on the horizon, Booking.com has announced that the company will provide $50 post-stay promotional travel credits to Americans ready to begin exploring - whether close to home or venturing further.
Booking.com's research confirms the vital role travel can have in our lives and its power to uplift spirits: with 61%* of Americans saying they have realized travel is critical to their emotional well-being and 60%* saying they have re-evaluated the importance of travel in their life as being more important now than before the pandemic started. To help Americans on their journey back to travel, as it is safe to do so, any American can activate Booking.com's $50 post-stay promotional travel credit in the Booking.com app by April 30, 2021, then book a stay in the app by May 31, 2021 and complete that stay by December 31, 2021. After that stay, the $50 promotional travel credit will be automatically deposited into a customer's Booking.com account, redeemable for one year for a future trip on select properties. With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, Booking.com's travel credits support Americans' desire to rediscover the places, people, cultures and experiences they love and have been missing, whenever they are ready, and support properties and destinations in beginning to welcome back the guests they have been missing given the toll the pandemic has taken on the travel industry.
Get Ready to Return to Life Post COVID-19
Blue Marble Health, along with program partners in Long Beach, New York City, and Alpena, announced a self-assessment plan as a part of a return to independence. As the rate of new COVID vaccinations rises, communities are beginning to discuss the process of opening up. Residents are starting to think about expanding their independence and returning to their pre-COVID-19 routines. Whether it entails walking around the block or walking around the grocery store, are you ready for a new normal? How is your physical strength? Balance? Do you have the endurance you need to keep your independence and return to regular activities as you know them? How can you safely find out and, if necessary, get assistance in regaining your strength and balance to regain your independence?
The partnership offers digitized self-assessments that will help older adults determine their readiness to stay independent and return to normal routines. The assessment battery considers strength, balance, endurance, diet, eyesight, mental health, and medication to calculate a fall risk score. Those who score in the "Typical for the Age and Gender," are likely ready to go about their day as before. Scores in the "Higher Fall Risk" suggest you will benefit from a consult with a physical therapist to help get you ready to interact with your friends and family safely. The program partners can help you target the areas you wish to improve so that you can safely and confidently return to your typical routine.
Pandemic Has More Americans Open To Planning For End-Of-Life Care
A new nationwide study reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has made many Americans, especially younger Americans, more open to talking about their wishes and values for end-of-life care. However, while most people say these conversations are important, they don't always take action to discuss or document their desires. The study also points to the critical role healthcare professionals play in starting those conversations.
The findings from a study commissioned by VITAS Healthcare come ahead of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16 and illustrate a growing desire among Americans to consider what they want -- and don't want -- as they face the challenges of advanced illness. VITAS, the nation's leading provider of end-of-life care, conducted the survey of 1,000 U.S. adults to help healthcare professionals have frank and honest conversations about care decisions. Additional findings will be shared in the coming months.
With more than 550,000 lives lost to COVID-19, more people are thinking about death and dying – although that doesn't mean they are talking about what's important to them for their own care. The study found that a majority of respondents (69%) report that talking about their wishes and values for end-of-life care is important to them. Only slightly more than half (56%) of all respondents have actually discussed those wishes. This is a marked increase from 2018, when a Conversation Project study that found only 32% had shared their wishes.
Spaces Making Up "The Interstitium" Are Connected
New York, New York
Made up of a series of compartments -- a newfound feature of human anatomy is interconnected throughout the body, providing a route for normal signals and, potentially, spreading cancer cells. This is the finding of a study published online March 31 in Communications Biology, an open access journal of Nature. It builds on work published in 2018, in which pathologists from NYU Grossman School of Medicine revealed that widespread layers of the body thought to be solid connective tissues instead contained fluid-filled spaces, comprising a previously unknown, body-wide system called the interstitium.
The 2018 study suggested that the natural movements of the body -- the pulsing of heart and blood vessels, the rhythmic squeezing that moves food through the digestive tract, the flexing of muscles -- push fluid through the network, supported by a mesh of connective tissue proteins, creating the possibility that it carries signals.
What remained to be proven was whether these compartments, found below the skin's surface, and lining organs, arteries and veins, nerves, and fascia between muscles, are separate units confined to their local tissues, or are interconnected throughout the body and across organ boundaries.
"Our experiments suggest that interstitial spaces are continuous, creating a potential superhighway through the body, distinct from blood and lymphatic vessels, though which cells and molecules circulate," says lead study author Odise Cenaj, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at NYU Langone Health. "This finding may have significant implications for how the body signals to itself across long distances to maintain health, as well as for the spread of certain cancers."
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