May Mental Health Month might be over, but we know this is an issue that’s important to your teams, and to us every day. We’re keeping our Mental Health section as long as it continues to be a major issue for your employees and communities.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
The latest CDC data shows a surprising pattern - that case rates among those with boosters are higher than among those who are vaccinated but not boosted. It’s led to some questions, but let’s be clear - boosters do NOT increase the risk of infection! There are a few things going on here. First, the people who are likely to be boosted are also the people who are most likely to get tested after they have symptoms or exposure, especially on the kind of test that gets reported, which are mostly PCR tests and tests through healthcare systems. So there’s some skewed data there based on the demographics of who gets tests that are reported to the CDC, and who gets booster doses. It’s possible that booster doses are waning - most people who got boosters did it at the beginning of their eligibility, which is more than 6 months ago. We know that protection wanes over time, so this is to be expected. And Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, MPH PhD (of Your Local Epidemiologist) suggests that those who aren’t boosted may be more likely to have recently gotten infected with Omicron during its surge, so they may have a leg up on protection right now compared to those who were boosted back in the fall. And those who are boosted have generally relaxed their behavior because they feel that they’re protected, even as their protection is waning.
The most important thing to remember is that people who are boosted have a much, much lower chance of having to go to the hospital or of dying when they get sick. So even if boosters don’t mean you’ll never be infected, they are still incredibly effective at ensuring that any illness doesn’t kill you or send you to the hospital with severe symptoms.
We’re now expecting vaccinations to begin as soon as the week of June 21st. There were and continue to be a few factors at play that lead to it taking this long. First, because young kids aren’t seeing the same kind of severe outcomes as adults, the demand for vaccines was relatively low at the start, so clinical trials took longer to get started. Then, the results weren’t very simple - finding the right dose that provides similar protection to the adult vaccines took a little tweaking, including Pfizer going back to trials to test three doses instead of two. Moderna finished their studies before Pfizer, but both are set to be reviewed in a meeting in mid-June. There are some accusations that the FDA waited to review Moderna’s application until Pfizer was ready, which, if true, may have contributed to the delay. Even for kids 5-11 whose vaccine is already approved, vaccine uptake is very, very low. Only just over a quarter of eligible kids are fully vaccinated with two doses. Their boosters, which were approved last week, are expected to have a similarly low uptake. But it’s important to remember that nearly 125,000 kids have been hospitalized for COVID, countless others have gotten sick, and doctors do recommend getting kids vaccinated (and boosted) as soon as they’re eligible.
It’s gut wrenching, and we’ve heard from some of your employees asking our clinical team for advice, as well. If it’s urgent, we recommend that employees contact their local health department. Sometimes they have a small stockpile they’re able to share in emergencies, and they’ll likely be clued in if any local stores have any available. Second, they should try their pediatrician, who might be able to suggest ideas and discuss how to manage the child’s nutrition in the meantime. Many parents think they can’t switch brands, for example, but often can. A pediatrician will help you navigate that. Whatever you do, don’t water down formulas or make your own - that can harm your baby’s health.
There is some hope that this will get better soon, with the news that the US government has a shipment of over a million cans coming from overseas and the recent signing of a bill that allows more formula through the WIC program for low-income parents, but we know that’s little consolation to parents who need to feed their babies today.
There’s a new study that shows people who are working out hard at the gym are breathing out exponentially more particles (which may contain the virus in those who are infected) than those who are at rest. Someone at rest breathes out about 500 particles per minute, but someone going all out on the spin bike or treadmill, for example, breathes out a whopping 76,000 particles per minute. It explains why gyms - or weddings with dance floors - tend to be more associated with superspreader events. Whether you should stop going to the gym depends on both how likely it is that you might become severely ill if you’re infected and your personal risk tolerance. If you’re immunocompromised, you should talk with your doctor about that choice. If you are concerned about transmission, but love your group exercise class, consider heading outdoors to group classes while the weather permits. It’s likely to drastically reduce your risk because outdoor transmission is much, much lower due to ventilation.