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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, January 17th

Breaking down myths about sudden deaths & vaccines


  • Winter surges of COVID are likely to make long hospital waits in the colder months a common occurrence. (Washington Post)
  • China’s COVID peak is expected to last two to three months, and hit rural areas next. (Reuters)
  • Paying people to take the COVID vaccine worked well - it didn’t undermine their chances of getting more doses, or create qualms about morals or self-determination. (CIDRAP)
  • China reported nearly 60,000 COVID deaths since lifting restrictions a month ago, a huge spike in the official death toll. (NY Times)
  • Doctors in China say they’re discouraged from citing COVID on death certificates. (Reuters)
  • While the CDC and FDA have flagged a potential link between Pfizer’s COVID vaccine and a higher ischemic stroke risk in seniors 65+ in the first 3 weeks after vaccination, subsequent analyses and a preliminary VA study have not. The agencies will continue to study this. (CDC)

Public Health News:

  • 250,000 kindergartners are at risk for measles due to the drop in routine vaccinations. (NBC)
  • The US has lifted screening of arrivals from Uganda after the Ebola outbreak there was declared over. (CIDRAP)
  • People with diabetes continue to struggle finding the drug Ozempic as it soars in popularity as a weight loss aid. (NBC)
  • The global push to treat HIV has left children behind, with 100,000 young people dying of AIDS each year. (NY Times)

Mental Health News:

  • The number one thing that people can change to become happier is their relationships with others, and it’s never too late to make new ones. (NPR)
  • The one-two punch of pandemic isolation and a hostile political climate sparked a mental health crisis for LGBTQ+ youth in California. (SF Chronicle)
  • 988 has seen a boost in both calls and funding in its first five months, meaning more people will be connected to help, faster. (NPR)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

Employees say that prescription drug shortages mean they’ll need to miss work. What’s going on and how can we help them get the medicine they need?

There’s a huge issue right now with shortages of certain prescription drugs, including the diabetes drug Ozempic, the antibiotic Amoxicillin, and the ADHD medication Adderall. For employers, this is causing unexpected issues like employees needing to take time off to titrate new medications, or having to stay out longer to care for sick kids while they wait for antibiotics. If you or an employee is struggling to get the medication you need, the first step is to let your doctor know you’re having a problem. They may be able to send your prescription to a different pharmacy that has it in stock, for example. In some cases, Canadian pharmacies may have meds in stock, but many are slow or don’t take insurance (though some people have had success submitting claims after the fact). In this new landscape, it’s important not to wait until the last day of your medication to refill a prescription. Pharmacies are short-staffed and are having supply chain issues, so you can’t always rely on quick refills anymore.

I got a hepatitis A vaccine 10+ years ago. Is it still good?

If you have completed the two-dose vaccination series against hepatitis A at any point in your life, you are considered fully vaccinated and protected against hep A. The current schedule has the first dose between 1 and 2 years of age, and the second at least 6 months later. If you haven’t been vaccinated against hep A, you should ask your doctor whether you need one. It’s recommended for international travelers and men who have sex with men, along with a number of other conditions and life experiences that put people at higher risk. If you’ve had direct contact with someone with hep A and you’ve never been vaccinated before, you’ll also need to get the vaccine as soon as possible, and within two weeks of exposure. Once you get both doses, you’re generally considered protected for life.

We made so many changes to our sanitizing protocols for COVID. Do they work for norovirus, too?

For the most part, the changes made to beef up surface sanitizing protocols at the beginning of the pandemic are useful in combating norovirus, as well. Ultimately, we learned that COVID spreads more through the air than it does on surfaces, but most businesses have at least some increased sanitizing procedures in place that can be part of the effort to fight the spread of noro. Most of the actual sanitizing solutions used for noro work against COVID, too, but not necessarily the other way around - be sure you’re using one that’s EPA-approved against both. Remember, norovirus is incredibly contagious and spreads differently than COVID, so heating food above 140 degrees, sanitizing surfaces and utensils, and washing hands are more important with norovirus than they are with COVID. For both diseases, though, making sure that nobody is working sick is the number one tool to prevent workplace spread.

How can we best combat misinformation falsely linking sudden deaths and medical emergencies to COVID vaccines?

We’ve heard rumors about nearly every surprising death and medical emergency that makes the news. When Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field, and when soccer reporter Grant Wahl died suddenly due to an aortic rupture, the rumors that it was linked to vaccines started almost immediately. Katelyn Jetelina from Your Local Epidemiologist covers this in her most recent post (our best read, below). The facts are very clear: there is no increased risk of non-COVID death after COVID vaccination, and the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks. Most of the online content spreading disinformation about sudden deaths due to vaccines is misleading. There are some verified and serious side effects possible from the vaccination, but they are much more rare than vaccine disinformation spreaders would have you think. It’s important to remember that overall, those who are vaccinated die less than those who aren’t, and vaccines saved millions of lives over the past two years.

Best Read:

COVID-19 Vaccines and Sudden Deaths: Separating Fact from Fiction  - Your Local Epidemiologist

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.