It looks like COVID-19 will be with us for a while longer, probably many years if we continue the way we are going. 

Nationwide there is significant variation in both the COVID vaccination rate and the number of new COVID-19 cases. A recent increase in the number of cases, doubling or tripling in some areas, occurred in unvaccinated individuals due to the Delta variant. The Delta variant is currently the most contagious form and makes up 98.8% of new COVID cases. In response to this vaccinations have increased in some, though not all, areas. While the COVID infection rate is decreasing in areas with higher vaccination rates and the rate continues to increase in areas with lower vaccination rates, the overall rate may be leveling off for the moment.

When comparing COVID vaccination and infection rates, there seem to be two different Americas

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NeedyMeds was started in 1997 when a family physician and a medical social worker realized there were dozens of pharmaceutical patient assistance programs available, providing medications to those in need at low- or no-cost, but no centralized resource for the information.  We became that resource, using the relatively new (at the time) Internet as the perfect medium for the constantly changing information. Despite growing significantly since our inception, we still have an expanding database of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) to help those unable to cover the costs of prescriptions.

Patient assistance programs are typically funded by pharmaceutical companies to help uninsured and underinsured patients get their medication for free or low-cost. There are no regulations or laws dictating that pharmaceutical companies must provide PAPs, so the eligibility requirements often vary from program to program. Most require personal information (full name, address, date of birth, social security number), information from your doctor, and a valid prescription. Some PAPs require information on insurance

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The number of new COVID-19 cases in our country is increasing again. This is occurring almost entirely in unvaccinated individuals. Despite this, the vaccination rates are declining. One of the major deterrents to vaccination is the misinformation being spread by social media and some news outlets. This blog will identify and attempt to dispel some of the common myths about COVID-19 vaccines.

Myth #1 They are dangerous because we don’t know enough about the side effects. 

When it comes to vaccinations, over a century of experience has shown that side effects are almost always seen within the first two weeks after the immunization, and definitely by two months. Since there have been over 365,800,000 doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines given over the last 8½ months in the U.S alone, there is little likelihood that there are any unknown short or long-term side effects.

As far as being dangerous, the most important point about vaccine side effects is that they are usually minor compared

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Labor Day is a national holiday to recognize and honor the American labor movement and the contributions of organizers and laborers to the development and achievements of the United States. Today, one out of every ten workers in the U.S. is a member of a labor union. Labor unions not only advocate for healthy and safe work environments; they improve the lives and promote the health of workers, their families, the community, and public health.

The labor movement has led the charge to protect working people from workplace injury, illness, and death since the Industrial Revolution. Unions in the United States have historically promoted and fought for healthy working conditions, safety and wellness programs, medical insurance, and democratic participation with support from organizations such as the American Public Health Association. Both labor unions and public health organizations intervene in the conditions that make people healthy through socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental conditions as well as individual choices, social and community networks.

Union workers are

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Photo by Jon Tyson

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Each year over 45,000 people in America die by suicide — a rate that has increased 41% since 1999. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but 54% of those who commit suicide do not have a known mental illness

Suicide is rarely caused by a single factor, and is also affected by personal relationships, substance use, physical health, and stress from jobs, money, legal issues, and/or housing. The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued systemic injustices have also had a chilling effect on Americans’ mental wellbeing. Awareness is important to end the stigma of suicidal feelings and help more people access life-saving help in dark times.

Anyone can have suicidal thoughts, but it is important to know they are not permanent. Having suicidal thoughts is not a sign of weakness or failure, but is a symptom of profound distress. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be very damaging and dangerous and should be considered a psychiatric emergency. 

Other than mental illness, there are a number of risk factors for suicide:

  • A family history of suicide;
  • Substance abuse — using drugs and alcohol results in mental/emotional highs and lows that can exacerbate suicidal thoughts;
  • Intoxication — more than a third of people who die from suicide are under the influence at the time;
  • Access to firearms;
  • A serious or chronic medical illness;
  • A history of trauma or abuse;
  • Prolonged stress;
  • Isolation;
  • A recent tragedy or loss;
  • Agitation; and/or
  • Sleep deprivation.
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