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Stanford Medicine students provide flu shots to help stave off ‘twindemic’ | News Center

Sporting scrubs, gloves, a surgical mask and a face shield, Sofia Georghiou sat under a canopy on a lawn near Stanford Hospital. The first-year student in physician assistant studies was ready to protect the Stanford community against the flu. 

While the country waits for a coronavirus vaccine to arrive, administering flu shots will reduce the number of people who become sick with influenza. And fewer flu patients will lessen the burden on hospitals caring for people stricken by the coronavirus. 

“We’re doing what we can to protect people during COVID-19,” Georghiou said. 

Like many first-year medical and physician assistant students at the Stanford School of Medicine, Georghiou is a member of Flu Crew, a student-run organization. Every fall, Flu Crew vaccinates Stanford students, staff and faculty, as well as people outside the university community who lack access to health care, such as farmworkers and homeless people. 

The shots are free.

Inoculating oranges, one another

Flu Crew members spend a day being trained to administer the vaccine: They learn about the influenza virus, observe a shot being given and practice sticking needles into oranges. Once they’ve mastered inoculating fruit, they vaccinate one another. Then, they’re ready: The students are permitted to give the shots as long as a physician is present to supervise.

This fall, besides running on-campus clinics, they vaccinated workers at a mushroom farm, as well as churchgoers, library visitors and Salvation Army customers. 

“At your first vaccination event, the hardest part is overcoming your nerves,” Georghiou said. 

“But once you get over that, you don’t think about it anymore,” added her classmate, Monica Lanning, who sat across a table from Georghiou. “It’s cool. We already feel like experts in one skill.”

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Medicaid’s Future As Safety-Net Health Care Hinges On Election : Shots

Health care activists rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2017, to protest Republican efforts that would have dismantled the Affordable Care Act and capped federal payments for Medicaid patients. The Republican congressional bills, part of the party’s “repeal and replace” push in 2017, were eventually defeated.

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Health care activists rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2017, to protest Republican efforts that would have dismantled the Affordable Care Act and capped federal payments for Medicaid patients. The Republican congressional bills, part of the party’s “repeal and replace” push in 2017, were eventually defeated.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

It was either put food on the table or drop their health insurance, says Oscar Anchia of Miami. His wife’s coverage was costing $700 a month, and his hours had been cut back because of the coronavirus pandemic. So Anchia made the difficult decision to drop his spouse from his policy, because they needed the money.

Then in October, his love for 40 years fell ill with COVID-19.

“This has been a crazy, crazy nightmare,” he said, after his wife’s first week in the hospital. He kept asking Baptist Health about the bill. He was already at $92,000 from her stay in the intensive care unit.

At this point, Anchia’s best hope is that his wife will be covered by a federal assistance program for uninsured COVID-19 patients. But that’s because he lives in one of the dozen holdout states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. That part of the ACA was intended to provide health coverage for adults who are working but who have no insurance through their job — either because it’s not offered or because they can’t afford the premiums.

Medicaid provides health care for millions of low-income Americans. But its future depends very much on politics. Over the past four years, the Trump administration has tried to impose conservative principles on the program and shrink it. A Joe Biden presidency would attempt to go the other way.

“For example, me, I always work. I’ve been working 36 years in the same company,” says Anchia, who builds signage for airports. “And now I find myself in this position. Medicaid would be great for regular people. I’m not the only one.”

Anchia’s wife is out of the ICU, but he also expects he’ll need help paying for prescription medication when she’s sent home.

In Florida alone, roughly 1.5 million people would be eligible for coverage under Medicaid expansion, according to estimates by the Florida Health Justice Project. It’s a number that has grown recently because of the economic trouble and job losses triggered by the pandemic.

“The pandemic has really elevated the visibility of the suffering and that it cuts across socioeconomic lines,” says Miriam Harmatz, executive director of the Florida Health Justice Project. “These are folks you wouldn’t have expected to be among the ranks of the uninsured.”

Under a Biden

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In A Small Pennsylvania City, A Mental Crisis Call To 911 Turns Tragic : Shots

Rulennis Munoz (center right) outside Lancaster Courthouse Oct. 14, after learning that the police officer who fatally shot her brother had been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Lancaster County District Attorney. Her mother, Miguelina Peña, and her attorney Michael Perna (far right) stood by.

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Rulennis Muñoz remembers the phone ringing on Sept. 13. Her mother was calling from the car, frustrated. Rulennis could also hear her brother Ricardo shouting in the background. Her mom told her that Ricardo, who was 27, wouldn’t take his medication. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia five years earlier.

Ricardo lived with his mother in Lancaster, Pa., but earlier that day he had been over at Rulennis’ house across town. Rulennis remembers that her brother had been having what she calls “an episode” that morning. Ricardo had become agitated because his phone charger was missing. When she found it for him, he insisted it wasn’t the same one.

Rulennis knew that her brother was in crisis and that he needed psychiatric care. But she also knew from experience that there were few emergency resources available for Ricardo unless a judge deemed him a threat to himself or others.

After talking with her mom, Rulennis called a county crisis intervention line to see if Ricardo could be committed for inpatient care. It was Sunday afternoon. The crisis worker told her to call the police to see if the officers could petition a judge to force Ricardo to go to the hospital for psychiatric treatment, in what’s called an involuntary commitment. Reluctant to call 911, and wanting more information, Rulennis dialed the non-emergency police number.

Meanwhile, her mother, Miguelina Peña, was back in her own neighborhood. Her other daughter, Deborah, lived only a few doors down. Peña started telling Deborah what was going on. Ricardo was becoming aggressive; he had punched the inside of the car. Back on their block, he was still yelling and upset, and couldn’t be calmed. Deborah called 911 to get help for Ricardo. She didn’t know that her sister was trying the non-emergency line.

The problems and perils of calling 911 for help with mental health

A recording and transcript of the 911 call show that the dispatcher gave Deborah three options: police, fire or ambulance. Deborah wasn’t sure, so she said “police.” Then she went on to explain that Ricardo was being aggressive, had a mental illness and needed to go to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Ricardo had moved on, walking up the street to where he and his mother lived. When the dispatcher questioned Deborah further, she also mentioned that Ricardo was trying “to break into” his mom’s house. She didn’t mention that Ricardo also lived in that house. She did mention that her mother “was afraid” to go back home with him.

The Muñoz family has since emphasized that Ricardo was never a threat to them. However, by the time police got the message, they believed they were responding to

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Lilly COVID-19 Antibody Treatment Would Come With Hefty Infusion Costs : Shots

An Eli Lilly researcher tests possible COVID-19 antibodies in a laboratory in Indianapolis.

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An Eli Lilly researcher tests possible COVID-19 antibodies in a laboratory in Indianapolis.

David Morrison/AP

Eli Lilly has struck a deal with the federal government to provide 300,000 doses of a drug that’s designed to keep people infected with COVID-19 out of the hospital. The cost per dose: $1,250.

The federal government plans to distribute the 300,000 doses at no cost, but that doesn’t mean treatment will be free.

The Lilly drug, a type of monoclonal antibody, is given by intravenous infusion. Those infusions, typically given in hospitals or standalone clinics, can cost well over $1,000. People with health insurance are often required to pay hundreds of dollars in copayments.

“Our goal is zero out-of-pocket expenses, wherever possible, for any patient receiving a Lilly COVID-19 antibody treatment,” said CEO Dave Ricks. However, his statement acknowledged that “health care facilities may charge a fee for the product’s administration.”

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to grant emergency use authorization for this drug, along with a similar product developed by Regeneron. The Lilly deal is contingent on the FDA clearing the medicine for emergency use.

President Trump received the Regeneron treatment shortly after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He has told Americans they, too, would get it at little or no out-of-pocket cost. However, the federal government has not addressed the issue of infusion costs.

The Lilly drug was tested on people who had been infected with the coronavirus but weren’t sick enough to go to the hospital. As outlined in a paper published online Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, 1.6% of people who got the drug ended up in the hospital or at the emergency room, compared with 6.3% of people who got the placebo.

That translates to $125,000 in upfront drug costs to prevent five trips to the emergency room or hospital, or $25,000 a piece. But adding in infusion costs could double the expense.

Since only a small percentage of people who are infected with the coronavirus require hospitalization, taking a drug to reduce that risk would be a judgment call. Is it worthwhile to go to the emergency room for an infusion, and possibly face a substantial copayment, in order to reduce the risk of having to go back to the hospital later with COVID-19?

“A lot of people are already reluctant to get infusions of antibodies,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, said Tuesday on a webcast. Compared with pills, he said, “people inherently look at an infusion as more invasive, as potentially more risky.”

Ultimately drug companies hope to make antibodies available as injections rather than infusions, but the first-generation products need to be given in large quantities, so they require infusions.

One decision the FDA will need to make is about the proper dosage. The study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the dose that

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Doctors urge flu shots in light of COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.

Health experts have urged Americans to get their flu shots this year to help ward off a “twindemic.”

“There’s considerable concern as we enter the fall and the winter months and into the flu season that we’ll have that dreaded overlap” of COVID-19 and the flu, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said earlier this month. 

The U.S. is battling a fresh surge of new coronavirus cases as winter approaches, and hospitals in some western and Midwestern states are filling up with COVID patients. The new rise follows an outbreak of COVID-19 cases that hit the Northeast hard earlier this year, followed by a rise in cases in the South over the summer. 

“We far surpassed what we’re used to with the flu with COVID this spring,” said Dr. Stephanie Sterling, chief of infectious disease at NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn, in New York. “And to consider COVID plus flu together, this kind of pandemic would be devastating for communities and for healthcare systems.” 

She said we need to do everything we can to prevent the flu. 

“We don’t want a bad influenza season coinciding with a second wave of COVID,” Sterling said. “Flu shots are safe. They do help prevent illness.”

Why is getting a flu shot so important this year? 

“One is to prevent flu illnesses and it’s complications, but the benefit in this current season are resources that would otherwise be needed to care for patients with the flu that would become scarce, could be directed toward the pandemic,” said Dr. Ram Koppaka, a medical officer for the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The CDC estimates that last flu season, there were 38 million flu illnesses, 400,000 flu hospitalizations and 22,000 flu deaths. Koppaka said there were also 188 pediatric deaths from influenza. 

An estimated 48% of U.S. adults and 64% of children received a flu vaccine during the same season. Koppaka said the number of flu vaccinations had been increasing prior to COVID-19, but there was still a need for improvement. 

Sterling said that despite communities having a good amount of flu vaccinations, emergency rooms and hospital beds are often overwhelmed during a normal flu season.

This could be a great concern for hospitals in rural areas. Many rural hospitals have limited beds and ventilators, and rural Americans may be at higher risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19 due to a range of factors, according to the CDC.

Additionally, the body does not do well fighting two infections at the same time, according to Dr. Jacqueline P. Cooke, a hospitalist at Jefferson Health in New Jersey. 

“The danger with COVID-19 is that the viral infection leads to overwhelming pneumonia and that type of viral pneumonia is what is causing the vast majority of people to need respiratory assistance and ventilation,” she said. 

Who should get a flu shot?

The CDC encourages people six months of age and older to get an annual flu shot. There are different types of vaccines that

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Lab experiment suggests flu shots could help fight off coronavirus infections

Flu shots are already considered an important factor in combating the coronavirus pandemic, since widespread inoculations will hopefully help prevent medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed by dual diseases. But new research suggests flu shots may also play some role in preventing COVID-19 infections in the first place, The Scientific American reports.

A study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that workers at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands who received a flu shot during the 2019-20 season were 39 percent less likely than their colleagues to test positive for the coronavirus as of June 1, 2020. Non-vaccinated employees contracted the virus at a 2.23 percent rate, compared to only 1.33 percent of those who were vaccinated.

The preliminary research would certainly require further clinical trials — though the author of the study noted it would be unethical to compel a control group of subjects to be denied a flu shot — and there could be several reasons why the vaccinated group staved off infection more easily, including the possibility that they are generally more health conscious and took more COVID-19 precautions.

Still, there have been other studies that hint at a possible link between flu shots (and other vaccines, for that matter) and lower COVID-19 risk. Additionally, the Radboud research team conducted a laboratory experiment in which they took blood cells from healthy individuals, purified them, and exposed some of them to a flu vaccine. After allowing the cells to grow for a few days, the researchers exposed them to the coronavirus. A day later they found that the vaccinated cells produced more of several kinds of immune molecules that fight off pathogens than those that were initially left alone. Read more at The Scientific American.

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Fighting A High Medical Bill Takes Tenacity And Health Insurance Know-How : Shots

When Tiffany Qiu found herself on the hook for her usual 30% Blue Shield of California coinsurance after the hospital quoted 20%, she pushed back.

Shelby Knowles for KHN


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Shelby Knowles for KHN

When Tiffany Qiu found herself on the hook for her usual 30% Blue Shield of California coinsurance after the hospital quoted 20%, she pushed back.

Shelby Knowles for KHN

When Tiffany Qiu heard how much her surgery was going to cost her, she was sure the hospital’s financial department had made a mistake. Qiu already knew from a breast cancer scare earlier that year that her plan required a 30% coinsurance payment on operations, so she pressed the person on the phone several times to make sure she had heard correctly: Her coinsurance payment would be only 20% if she had the procedure at Palomar Medical Center in Poway, California, about 38 miles south of where Qiu lives.

“I was kind of in doubt, so I called them a second time,” said Qiu. “They gave me the exact same amount.”

Qiu had been diagnosed with uterine polyps, a benign condition that was making her periods heavier and more unpredictable. Her OB-GYN proposed removing them but said it was safe to wait. Qiu said that she asked about the possibility of doing it in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia to make the procedure cheaper, but that her doctor rebuffed her suggestion.

Because Qiu thought she was getting a deal on her usual 30% share of the bill, she decided to go ahead with the polyp removal on Nov. 5, 2019. As she sat in the waiting room filling out forms, staffers let her know she needed to pay in full before the surgery.

Unease set in. The hospital asked for the 20% coinsurance — $1,656.10 — that she had been quoted over the phone, but Qiu hadn’t been told she needed to pay on the day of the procedure. As she handed over her credit card, she confirmed one more time that this would be her total patient responsibility, barring complications.

The surgery was over in less than 30 minutes, and she walked out of the hospital with her husband, feeling perfectly fine.

Then the bill came.

Patient: Tiffany Qiu is a 49-year-old real estate agent and mother of two who lives in Temecula, California. Her family of four is covered by a Blue Shield of California policy that she and her husband purchased on the marketplace. Last year, they paid a $1,455 monthly premium, with an individual annual $1,850 deductible and an individual out-of-pocket maximum of $7,550.

Total Bill: Palomar Health billed Blue Shield $22,219.64 for the polyp removal, which the insurer negotiated down to $8,576.79. Blue Shield paid $5,769.72 and stated in an explanation of benefits document that Qiu was responsible for a $334.32 deductible and $2,472.75 coinsurance.

Because Qiu had already paid $1,873.20 on the day of surgery, the hospital billed her an additional $933.87, which meant Qiu was on

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Washington Offering Free Flu Shots To Uninsured Adults

WASHINGTON — This year’s flu season has been very mild, and state health officials would like to keep it that way.

The Washington State Department of Health has announced a new program, offering free flu shots to uninsured adults at 23 participating Albertsons and Safeway pharmacies across the state.

To qualify for a free shot, patients must be over 18 and uninsured. No proof of residency or immigration status will be required. Flu vaccines are already being offered and the program will run through June of 2021.

Participating Pharmacies in Western Washington

Location

Address

Phone Number

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1546)

221 West Heron Street
Aberdeen, WA 98520

(360) 532-8743

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #0531)

101 Auburn Way S
Auburn, WA 98002

(253) 735-4404

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #3285)

1275 E Sunset Drive
Bellingham, WA 98226

(360) 650-1537

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1467)

900 N Callow
Bremerton, WA 98312

(360) 792-9262

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #0474)

1715 Broadway
Everett, WA 98201

(425) 339-9448

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1484)

4128 Rucker Ave
Everett, WA 98203

(425) 258-3552

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1294)

210 Washington Ave S
Kent, WA 98032

(253) 852-5115

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1464)

3215 Harrison Avenue NW
Olympia, WA 98502

(360) 956-3827

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1492)

110 East 3rd Street
Port Angeles, WA 98362

(360) 457-0599

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1563)

200 S 3rd Street
Renton, WA 98057

(425) 226-0325

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1508)

3820 Rainier Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98118

(206) 725-9887

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #3213)

15332 Aurora Ave N
Shoreline, WA 98133

(206) 539-5500

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #0329)

1112 South M Street
Tacoma, WA 98405

(253) 627-8840

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1437)

1302 E 38th Street
Tacoma, WA 98418

(253) 471-1630

Learn more about the program from the Washington State Department of Health’s website.

Washington’s top health officials say, in the middle of a pandemic, the last thing our medical system needs is an influx of flu patients.

“The potential for a severe influenza season, or even an average influenza season, compounding the COVID outbreak is very, very disturbing and worrisome,” said King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin.

Read more: Health Experts: Now ‘More Important Than Ever’ To Get Flu Vaccine

The flu shot is recommended for everyone six months old or older. Patients over 65 should consult with their doctor first.

The Washington State Department of Health says there are several changes patients should be aware of for the 2020-2021 flu season:

  • All children under 19 can now receive flu vaccines and other recommended vaccines for free.

  • Most insurance plan cover the cost of the flu vaccine for adults.

  • Adults without insurance may qualify to recieve the vaccine at no cost. Find more information on free vaccination from your local health department.

Guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows the best time to get vaccinated is between September and October, though if the flu season persists past October it’s never too late to get the vaccine. Receiving a vaccine too early, like in August or July, can leave it

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MVP offering free flu shots at upcoming clinics in Albany, Troy, Clifton Park

Photo of Bethany Bump

MVP Health Care will be offering free flu shots to anyone who needs one at three upcoming local clinics.

The Schenectady-based health insurer is asking that guests register upon arrival, but no reservations will be needed. Individuals with MVP health insurance, outside insurance, and no insurance are welcome.

When:

  • Saturday, Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 30 from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 6 from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Where:

  • Crossgates Mall — 1 Crossgates Mall Road, Albany, NY 12203
  • Arts Center of the Capital Region — 265 River Street, Troy, NY 12180
  • Southern Saratoga YMCA Clifton Park — 1 Wall Street, Clifton Park NY 12605

Health experts say this is an especially important year to get vaccinated against the flu, as hospitals anticipate a second wave of coronavirus to hit and are already feeling the strain from rising cases.

The flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, but it can prevent seasonal influenza or at the very least reduce its severity and duration, experts say.

Anyone over the age of 6 months is advised to get the shot annually, with rare exceptions. Those most at risk of severe flu complications include people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women and children younger than 5 years, and especially children under 2 years old.

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Trump vs. Biden On Health Care: Compare Their Platforms : Shots

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have widely divergent views on health care issues.

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President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have widely divergent views on health care issues.

Patrick Semansky/AP

Health care was going to be the defining issue of the 2020 election before a pandemic and economic upheaval eclipsed pretty much everything else. But of course, the pandemic has highlighted many health policy issues.

With a highly contagious virus spreading around the world, “you might be thinking more about the importance of health insurance, or you may be worried about losing your job, which is where you get your health insurance,” says Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University. “The COVID pandemic and health policy are intertwined.”

Meanwhile, the choice between the two major presidential candidates on health policy could not be more stark. Drawing from President Trump’s record on health care and former Vice President Joe Biden’s policy proposals, here’s a guide to where they stand.

The Affordable Care Act

The candidates’ visions differ radically on the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, which was enacted in 2010.

“President Trump has — from Day 1 — pushed for repealing or overturning the ACA, and Joe Biden is pushing to build and expand on it,” says Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments on the latest challenge to the ACA on Nov. 10. If the court does overturn the law, the president and Congress will have to work quickly to address the possibility of tens of millions becoming uninsured.

One of the ACA’s most popular provisions is protection for people with preexisting conditions from being denied coverage or charged higher premiums. Trump has promised to keep this part of the law but hasn’t offered specifics on how, and policy experts warn it’s harder than it sounds.

Medicare and Medicaid

When it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, the federal health programs that together provide coverage to 115 million people, Trump has promoted the private market and given states control, while Biden wants to expand eligibility to both programs.

Trump has sought to bring drug costs down and provide more private plan options for beneficiaries in Medicare — the federal program for people over 65 — while supporting spending caps and work requirements for Medicaid — the state-run program for low-income adults, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities.

Biden would allow people to enroll in Medicare at age 60 and would also try to create a new federal health program similar to Medicare, which he calls a public option.

COVID-19 pandemic

Biden has remarked often that he would “listen to science” in handling the pandemic, drawing a contrast with Trump, who has repeatedly contradicted his top health officials.

Biden’s proposals emphasize the role of the federal government leading the response, while Trump has delegated

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