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Posts Tagged: flu vaccination

Getting a flu vaccine in 2020 is more important than ever

With the novel coronavirus still infecting thousands of people a day, public health officials worry that a bad flu season could overwhelm hospitals and clinics that are already stretched thin.

The best thing you can do to make sure that doesn't happen: Get a flu shot.

The flu shot is now widely available, and virtually all insurance plans cover the cost. Some health care providers are even offering the safety and convenience of getting vaccinated at an outdoor drive-up or walk-up location.

The life you save could be your own

University of California

If helping our overtaxed health care system isn't reason enough to get vaccinated, consider the fact that it could actually save your life. 34,000 people died of influenza during the 2018-2019 flu season and nearly half a million others were hospitalized.

Getting a flu vaccine is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from flu and its most serious complications. And it could also help ensure that you don't contract COVID-19 and the flu at the same time.

Doctors don't yet know what will happen to patients with that kind of dual diagnosis, said UC San Francisco epidemiologist George Rutherford.

What is clear is that the flu and COVID-19 both target the lung, he said.

“And to the extent that the lungs are damaged by one disease and the other one comes along and damages it more, you can get into trouble faster,” he said.

He added that it's also known that influenza can make you more susceptible to infection by other pathogens. “In fact, a lot of the deaths of the 1918 flu pandemic were probably from staphylococcal pneumonia as a superinfection on top of influenza pneumonia,” he said.

Do it for your loved ones

Still not convinced that you should get a flu shot? Think about doing it for the people you love.

Flu is highly contagious, and particularly dangerous for the elderly, people with underlying health conditions, and children. The greater the number of people who get vaccinated, the better protected these vulnerable populations will be.

“If you get influenza, you may be putting your loved ones — the very young, the very old, such as your children, parents and grandparents — at risk,” said Charles Chiu, M.D., Ph.D., an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco.

“I think it's important to realize that taking the vaccine is not just for you, it's also to prevent spreading the virus to others. So, on a community level, the more people that are vaccinated, the fewer overall cases we're going to get.

Still not sure about getting a flu vaccine this year?

This Q&A from Nina Bai and UCSF sets the record straight on common myths. Read their full article on the flu shot here.

In a typical flu season, less than half of Americans get a flu shot, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk of a preventable disease.

Some people may have doubts about vaccine efficacy. Others think the flu is no big deal. And during COVID-19, some worry about the risks of going to a doctor's office.

We asked the experts about these common concerns.

I'm not sure about getting a flu vaccine because …

1. Going to the doctor's office seems risky during COVID-19.

“The risk at a doctor's office is very likely to be much less than the risk of going out to a supermarket or a crowded location,” said Chiu. That's because health care workers are vigilant about taking the appropriate precautions. Most documented COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in gatherings where people were not adhering to standard precautions like mask wearing and social distancing. “This is exactly the opposite of a controlled situation such as the doctor's office,” said Chiu.

Experts say local pharmacies are also safe settings to get a flu shot.

Like any activity during COVID-19, it's about balancing the risks and benefits. “The benefits of getting a vaccine far outweigh the very, very low risk of one visit to a doctor's office while wearing a mask and social distancing,” said Chiu.

2. I'm already social distancing and wearing a mask, so I won't catch the flu.

It's true that your risk of catching the flu is much less if you wear a mask and social distance one hundred percent of the time, said Chiu, but “we know that people get tired of these measures” and may not always be rigorous.

As colder weather sets in, more activities will move indoors where transmission is more likely. At the same time, more states may be opening up and lifting restrictions, more people will be going back to work and kids going to back to school. “Although the risks might be low now that people are still behaving, the worry is that it's going to change,” said Chiu. “It only takes one episode where you forget to wear your mask, or choose not to, that can put you and others at risk.”

3. I heard the flu season is going to be mild this year

It's true that Australia, where the flu season peaks from June to August, has so far seen a much milder flu season, but that's likely due to social distancing, travel restrictions, and a higher than usual vaccination rate.

Those factors may not translate to the colder temperatures and variable mitigation measures across the U.S. The risk will also fall disproportionately on essential workers who don't have the luxury of sheltering at home, said Chiu.

“My worry isn't that we're going to have an overwhelming flu season,” said Chiu, “My worry is that even a mild flu season may be enough to tip our health care system over the edge.”

4. The flu vaccine isn't very effective anyway.

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year depending on how closely we've guessed the strains, but we won't know the effectiveness of this year's vaccine until the flu season is over next spring, said Chiu. It's too early even to glean from the Southern hemisphere, which is still in its flu season.

“What's valuable about the vaccine is that even if it is, say, only 50 percent protective one year, it has been shown that getting the vaccine may decrease the severity of illness and your risk of being hospitalized for influenza,” said Chiu.

Besides the personal benefit, getting a flu vaccine also contributes to the wider public health effort. “I think it's important to realize that taking the vaccine is not just for you, it's also to prevent spreading the virus to others,” he said. “So on a community level, the more people that are vaccinated, the fewer overall cases we're going to get.”

5. I'm young and healthy, so the flu isn't dangerous for me.

“People die of influenza at all age groups,” said Rutherford. “It causes a lot of morbidity and mortality.”

“Even in someone who is young and healthy, influenza can put them out of work for one to two weeks because of the fever and overwhelming fatigue,” said Chiu. “It's not a disease that you want to get.”

Another reason for young people to get the flu shot, said Chiu, is to protect those who are more vulnerable. You can spread the virus to others even before you are overtly symptomatic. “If you get influenza, you may be putting your loved ones — the very young, the very old, such as your children, parents, and grandparents — at risk.”

6. The vaccine contains harmful chemicals and can cause disease.

“The components of a flu vaccine have been extensively studied and vetted by not only the CDC, but also the FDA, and the data show overwhelmingly that these vaccines are safe and effective,” said Chiu.

“Just like any vaccine, there's a possibility of some soreness or redness at the site of the shot, or low-grade fever and aches,” said Chiu. “But flu vaccines do not cause flu and they do not cause conditions like autism.”

Posted on Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 1:29 PM

Flu vaccination required for UC students, faculty and staff by Nov. 1

To support the health and well-being of UC students, faculty and staff and our communities, the University of California, in consultation with UC Health leadership, has issued a systemwide executive order requiring all members of the UC community to receive an influenza immunization before Nov. 1, 2020.

The executive order is an important proactive measure to help protect members of the UC community — and the public at large — and to ameliorate the severe burdens on health care systems anticipated during the coming fall and winter from influenza and COVID-19 illnesses.

In addition to protecting those on campuses and the surrounding communities, this requirement is designed to avoid a surge of flu cases at health care facilities across the state during the unprecedented public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), flu vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent millions of illnesses and thousands of related medical visits every year. In recent years, flu vaccinations have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among older adults on average by about 40%. Flu vaccinations also protect those around us, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness.

The executive order requires the vaccination for all faculty and staff who are working at a UC location. The university already has a clear policy on immunizations for students, and this action adds influenza to existing vaccination requirements for them, and extends the requirement to faculty and staff beyond those which presently exist for all UC health care workers.

A process will be put in place for faculty and staff to request medical exemptions. Requests for disability or religious accommodations will be handled through the interactive process consistent with existing location policies and procedures.

All UC medical plans which cover faculty, staff and students include coverage for flu vaccinations at no cost to those covered by the plan. In addition, for those without group health care coverage, all ACA-compliant health plans also cover flu vaccinations as part of a preventive care package that includes no copay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the best source for information on this year's flu vaccinations and when it would be available.

Flu vaccine FAQs 
UCOP has published frequently asked questions concerning the 2020-21 UC influenza vaccination order at https://ucnet.universityofcalifornia.edu/coronavirus/frequently-asked-questions-for-employees-about-the-2020-21-uc-influenza-vaccination-order.html.

More information about the implementation of UC's requirement, and when the flu vaccination for 2020-21 is available, will be shared in the coming weeks.

Unauthorized survey 
UCOP Communications has learned that an outside market research firm, Consumer Evaluation & Insights, recently sent a survey about UC's flu vaccination policy to a number of UC faculty and staff with the subject line “Share your opinion on the UC Flu Vaccine requirement.” Please be aware this survey was not authorized or commissioned by UC, and you are under no obligation to complete it. 

Additionally, because data from this survey is being collected by an external organization, UC cannot make any assurances regarding the use, privacy or security of any information you provide.

 

Posted on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 at 2:54 PM

UC ANR and AgStart receive $500,000 to cultivate the VINE

The Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship will connect entrepreneurs statewide to resources to commercialize a new product or start a business.

California is constantly being challenged by pest invasions, obesity, labor shortages, water scarcity, food insecurity, climate change and more. To accelerate the development and adoption of technologies that address these challenges and advance food, agriculture and natural resources in California, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and AgStart will receive a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to cultivate the Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship (the VINE).

Like a grapevine, the VINE will connect existing clusters of innovation across California and link entrepreneurs with mentors, advisors, collaborators, events, competitions, education and other services to turn good ideas into products and services people can use. 

“We want to make sure every Californian has the support system to take a novel idea and commercialize a new product or start a new business,” said VP Glenda Humiston. “They don't have to be a university inventor, they could be a farmer or a young person.”

John Selep of AgStart, left, works with Olivier Jerphagnon and Kevin Langham of Powwow Energy, which uses electric utility smartmeters to help growers measure irrigation water use.

AgStart itself was established with an EDA i6 Challenge grant to assist agriculture and food technology entrepreneurs in the Sacramento Valley region. Since 2012, AgStart has supported more than 58 entrepreneurs and their companies.

“In 2016, of the 16 entrepreneurial companies that AgStart assisted, eight resided outside our region, and leveraged AgStart's program to make connections into our Sacramento Valley region,” said John Selep, president of AgTech Innovation Alliance, AgStart's sponsor. 

“The VINE will expand this AgStart model of connecting entrepreneurs to the resources they need to be successful, to enable entrepreneurs residing anywhere in California to connect to the clusters of resources, contacts, mentors and potential partners that have emerged across the state,” said Selep.  

“The VINE is really exciting because of its potential to unite all the regions of California in an innovation ecosystem for food, agriculture and natural resources,” said Gabe Youtsey.
Gabriel Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer, said the VINE won't recreate the wheel. 

 “There are many wonderful regional innovation hubs in food, agriculture and natural resources so we plan to bring value by amplifying their efforts, connecting regions and organizations into a more cohesive ecosystem, and bringing value-added resources that ultimately benefit all Californians through the innovations affecting our economic prosperity, food supply and environment,” Youtsey said.

UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors, who work in every county, can provide insight into real-world conditions that entrepreneurs should consider in the development stage. UC ANR's nine research and extension centers can provide locations to field-test products and demonstrate their effectiveness. For example, start-up Blue River is testing its technology by flying a drone over sorghum crops to collect data at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.

2017 Apps for Ag hackathon winners Sreejumon Kundilepurayil and Vidya Kannoly are getting help from UC ANR to commercialize their smartphone app.
“The VINE is really exciting because of its potential to unite all the regions of California in an innovation ecosystem for food, agriculture and natural resources,” said Youtsey. “Not only will it help bridge the Silicon Valley and Bay Area with California's food-producing valleys, but it will bring opportunities for our innovators and entrepreneurs in rural communities in every part of California to participate.”

For the last two years, UC ANR has hosted the Apps for Ag hackathon and has introduced the winners to mentors, tech industry advisors, farmers, funders and legal experts who can advise entrepreneurs on business structure.

The VINE, which is working with UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health and Valley Vision, is being structured to complement other efforts to establish food, agriculture, and natural resources incubation and innovation resources in cluster locations around the state, such as the BlueTechValley Regional Innovation Cluster, the Western Growers Innovation & Technology Center, UC Merced's VentureLab and others.

Youtsey and Selep are seeking more VINE partners with expertise across the business spectrum.

“If our vision is successful, the VINE will make California the most fertile region in the world for entrepreneurs in ag and food technology to establish themselves, to prosper and grow,” Selep said.

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 6:45 PM

Names in the News

Slattery rejoins UCCE in Butte County 

Chelsey Slattery

Chelsey Slattery rejoined UC Cooperative Extension on Sept. 18, 2017, as an area nutrition, family, and consumer sciences advisor in Butte County.

From 2013 to 2016, Slattery was a UCCE community education specialist, supervising the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties.

From July 2016 to September 2017, Slattery was a program manager at UC Davis Center for Nutrition Schools, where she oversaw a statewide, multi-component, evidence-based, and research-tested nutrition education program. She facilitated training in coordination with the UC CalFresh State Office and UC CalFresh counties throughout the state of California.

Concurrently, Slattery has been working as a per-diem nutrition specialist since 2015 at Shady Creek Outdoor Education Foundation, where she provides oversight and guidance for the Fit Quest program, bringing comprehensive children's wellness programs to Northern California schools. 

Slattery earned an M.S. in organizational leadership from the School of Business Management at National University. She completed a B.S. in exercise physiology/exercise science from CSU Chico.

Based in Oroville, Slattery can be reached at (530) 538-7201 and cslattery@ucanr.edu.

From left, Michelle Prysby, ANROSP president, Sabrina Drill and Marisa Rodriguez. Photo by Michele Richards.

California Naturalist wins ANROSP outstanding team award

The California Naturalist Program was named the 2017 Outstanding Team by the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs (ANROSP). Sabrina Drill, associate director of California Naturalist and UC Cooperative Extension advisor, and Marisa Rodriguez, community education specialist with California Naturalist in Southern California, accepted the award on Sept. 21 at the annual ANROSP conference held at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Ore.

Led by director Adina Merenlender, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, the CalNat staff includes Greg Ira, academic coordinator; Brook Gamble, community education specialist; Drill and Rodriguez.

Teamwork is fundamental to the program structure. Since 2012, California Naturalist has certified more than 1,800 Naturalists, who have logged over 100,000 volunteer hours.

The team credits its success to the support and efforts across UC ANR and an extended team of course partners, instructors, statewide partners, educators, scientists, conservation practitioners, and many others who have contributed to the continued adaptive development of the program.

Grant to be inducted into Ag Hall of Fame 

Joe Grant hangs mating disruption dispensers in orchard with Jhalendra Rijal

On Oct. 19, Joseph Grant, UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus, will be among the people inducted into the San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame at the 33rd Annual Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet.

For most of his career, Grant, who retired in 2016, worked as a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor and is known for his research on walnuts, cherries, apples, olives and other tree crops. 

“It's kind of awesome. I mean when you look at the other people that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, I don't consider myself in that class of people so it's humbling,” Grant  said about his induction to the Lodi News-Sentinel.

In addition to Grant, the San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame will honor Henry “Skip” Foppiano, Jack and Pati Hamm and Hank Van Exel, and give a posthumous honor to winemaker Robert Gerald Mondavi.

According to the Hall of Fame, it “honors those individuals who have contributed to agriculture and to their community in significant ways.” 

The banquet will be held at the Robert J. Cabral Ag Center in Stockton. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased by calling the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce at (209) 547-2770 or by visiting http://stocktonchamber.org/ag-hall-of-fame

USDA-ARS bestows B.Y. Morrison Medal on Zalom

Frank Zalom receives the 2017 B.Y. Morrison Medal from Chavonda Jacobs-Young, the USDA-ARS administrator, at a ceremony in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

Frank Zalom, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology and integrated pest management (IPM) specialist, has been named the recipient of the 2017 B.Y. Morrison Medal by U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS).

Zalom is the first entomologist to receive the coveted award established in 1968, according to Kim Kaplan of the USDA-ARS Office of Communications.

Zalom was singled out for his outstanding work in IPM related to sustainable horticulture production, specifically for “his outstanding leadership and public service in IPM for horticultural crops at the regional, state, national and international levels; his stellar accomplishments in horticultural crops sustainability and pest management and his work ethic, service, courage and integrity, all driven by his insatiable curiosity and passion to solve problems in the horticultural crops landscape,” Kaplan said.

Zalom received the award, co-sponsored by USDA-ARS and the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), on Sept. 21 at the ASHS conference in Waikoloa, Hawaii. He presented the Morrison Memorial Lecture on “Significance of Integrated Pest Management to Sustainable Horticultural Production – Observations and Experiences.”

Read more at //ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=25218. -- Kathy Keatley Garvey

 

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 2:09 PM

UC ANR Staff Assembly Updates

Senior delegate Jeannette Warnert, left, and junior delegate LeChé McGill represented UC ANR staff at the Council of UC Staff Assemblies meeting in San Diego.

Ambassadors Meeting

The UC ANR Staff Assembly Council will hold a Staff Assembly Ambassadors meeting at the ANR Building in Davis on Oct. 10. The engagement will provide an opportunity for ambassadors to visit and network with colleagues and review Staff Assembly priorities. Additionally, they will discuss opportunities for staff to become more involved in addressing staff concerns and furthering organizational goals.

UC ANR Tote Bags

UC ANR Staff Assembly tote bag

In an effort to help spread the word about UC ANR Staff Assembly, all Staff Assembly members will receive a We Are UC ANR Staff Assembly tote bag. Members of the UC Staff Assembly include all ANR staff, whether employed by the county or the university, represented by a union or not represented. UC ANR Staff Assembly Ambassadors are the points of contact for distributing the bags at each office.

CUCSA Fall 2017 Meeting

UC San Diego was the site of the CUCSA (Council of University of California Staff Assemblies) Fall 2017 Meeting Sept. 6-8. The meeting included a team building exercise, work group action planning, post retirement health benefit discussions and a review of UC Employee Engagement Survey results. UC ANR junior delegate LeChé McGill and senior delegate Jeannette Warnert represented UC ANR staff at the meeting.

On the subject of potential changes to post-retirement health benefits, CUCSA chair Lina Layiktez provided the summary below and links for more information.

Proposed change to post-retirement health benefits
The proposed action item for the July 2017 Regents meeting was to remove the 70 percent floor on the UC contribution to retiree health benefits and place a cap of 3 percent on year-over-year increases to UC costs. This is a policy change to offset the accounting rule changes required in "GASB 75." GASB 75 requires that the full actuarial value of other postemployment benefits (OPEB) be included on the systemwide balance sheet. This means that UC will have a perceived “new” liability of $21 billion, which would affect the system's overall credit rating. A hit to the UC's credit rating has obvious impacts to financing for the university.

The “new” GASB 75 requirement definition is subject to interpretation, since it was already a liability that was disclosed in previous year's financials. The value of this liability under current assumptions/retiree rules is approximately $21 billion. The current assumptions are being driven by the number of retirees in the system plus the number of potential retirees (active staff and faculty) and how much it would cost the system in health-care costs should the current employees retire today.

What does this all mean?
By removing the floor and capping UC's costs, the university effectively transfers rising health-care premiums to retirees. The assumed rate of health-care cost increase is 7 percent. Over the course of 20 years this would flip the proportion that UC pays to ~30 percent and the retiree to ~70 percent. The 70 percent floor was designed to provide some stability to retiree health-care costs.

What do we see happening?
Many UC employees choose to retire after calculating their retirement income. This is necessary because, except for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), there is no way for retirees to increase their income from the university. So when out-of-pocket health-care costs go up for retirees, this eats into their living expenses. There are already retirees and survivors of retirees who have to choose between health-care costs and food. To suddenly remove the 70% floor exacerbates this problem.

What can you do?
The campus staff assemblies are collecting feedback locally and sharing this up to the Council of UC Staff Assemblies (CUCSA), who will be coordinating a response to the UC President and/or Board of Regents. We are also working on a list of questions that include queries, such as what OPEB would look like if it grandparented current employees and implemented the changes to future retirees? What does this mean for retention of employees with 10 to 20 years of service?

The most powerful and helpful thing for us now is to hear about your personal concerns and how this impacts you. Would no OPEB mean you are less likely to retire from the UC system and take a job elsewhere for more money now? Will you have to postpone your retirement if, in retirement, you will have to pay a greater portion of your OPEB than you had planned for under the current plan?

Share your questions and stories with us on the UC ANR Staff Assembly website.

What's next?
Fortunately, the July agenda was revised and this item was moved to the November meeting agenda. Moving the item to November will allow for more consultation and discussion. It is unknown what approach the UC Office of the President (OP) will take to solicit feedback and engage in discussion. But as that information becomes available, we will make sure to share it broadly. We are hopeful that CUCSA (and therefore a voice of staff) will be included in the discussions and that OP will convene a task force representing all parties that will be affected by the proposed changes. Stay tuned.

Click here for the original July Regents Meeting Agenda Item (F7), which was then revised to remove the discussion on the 70 percent floor.

The immediate past chair of the systemwide Academic Senate, Jim Chalfant, has already written a letter to the UC President on this issue. You can read it online here: http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/reports/JC-JN-Retiree-Health.pdf.

We can work collectively to inform and educate staff on this important matter. We are stronger together and the more voices that participate, the louder the message will be to those making the decisions that affect all of us.

UC ANR human resources director John Fox also said one important point that isn't addressed in the CUCSA summary is Medicare coverage. “When a UC retiree enrolls in Medicare, the monthly medical premium costs are significantly reduced (both for the retiree and for UC). Much of the future liability that UC is trying to control (and the risk of high monthly costs for the retirees) is during the time between retirement from UC and the start of Medicare eligibility (typically age 65).”

If you would like to share your stories or post a comment on this proposed change, please fill out the form on the UC ANR Staff Assembly website. We will share comments and stories from UC ANR with CUCSA leadership, who will compile it with information from other campuses to share with the UC President and UC Regents.

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 1:35 PM
  • Author: LeChé McGill

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