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US to lift most federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates next week

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration will end most of the last remaining federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements next week when the national public health emergency for the coronavirus ends, the White House said Monday.

Vaccine requirements for federal workers and federal contractors, as well as foreign air travelers to the U.S., will end May 11. The government is also beginning the process of lifting shot requirements for Head Start educators, healthcare workers, and noncitizens at U.S. land borders.

The requirements are among the last vestiges of some of the more coercive measures taken by the federal government to promote vaccination as the deadly virus raged, and their end marks the latest display of how President Joe Biden’s administration is moving to treat COVID-19 as a routine, endemic illness.

“While I believe that these vaccine mandates had a tremendous beneficial impact, we are now at a point where we think that it makes a lot of sense to pull these requirements down,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told The Associated Press on Monday.

Deeply polarizing at the time and the subject of numerous legal challenges — many of which were successful — the vaccination requirements were imposed by Biden in successive waves in late 2022 as the nation’s vaccination rate plateaued even amid the emergence of new, more transmissible variants of COVID-19.

More than 100 million people at one time were covered by Biden’s sweeping mandates, which he announced on Sept. 9, 2021, as the delta variant of the virus was sickening more people than at any time up to that point in the pandemic. Biden had ruled out such requirements before taking office that January, but came to embrace them to change the behavior of what he viewed to be a stubborn slice of the public that refused to be inoculated, saying they jeopardized the lives of others and the nation’s economic recovery.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said at the time. The unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

Federal courts and Congress have already rolled back Biden’s vaccine requirements for large employers and military servicemembers.

Mandates remain for many employees of the National Institutes of Health, Indian Health Service and Department of Veterans Affairs — which implemented their own requirements for healthcare staff and others independent of the White House — will remain while those agencies review their own requirements, the administration said.

Over 1.13 million people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began more than three years ago, including 1,052 people in the week ending April 26, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was the lowest weekly death toll from the virus since March 2020.

“COVID continues to be a problem,” Jha said. “But our healthcare system or public health resources are far more able to respond to the threat that COVID poses to our country and do so in a way that does not cause problems with access to care for Americans.”

He added, “Some of these emergency powers are just not necessary in the same way anymore.”

More than 270 million people in the U.S., or just over 81% of the population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC.

For more than a year, U.S. health officials have been eyeing a long-term response to COVID-19 that is more similar to the approach to influenza, with updated shots yearly targeted at the latest strains of the virus — particularly for the most vulnerable. But fewer than 56 million people in the U.S., or 17% of the population, have received a dose of the updated bivalent boosters that became available in September 2022 and provide better protection against the omicron variants that remain in circulation.

“We don’t have a national mandate for flu vaccines in the same way, and yet we see pretty good uptake of flu vaccines,” Jha said. “The goal here really is to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated, but I don’t think mandates are going to be necessary for getting Americans vaccinated against COVID in the future.”

While federal mandates are ending, Jha predicted that some employers, especially medical facilities, may decide to maintain their COVID-19 vaccination requirements. He noted that the hospital where he practices has had a flu vaccine requirement for employees for 20 years.

Jha dismissed concerns that the ending of the international traveler vaccination requirement would increase the risk of a new variant from overseas entering the U.S. Biden has already rolled back virus testing requirements for both American citizens and foreign travelers to the U.S.

Jha said the U.S. was already protected by a traveler genomic surveillance program, which, for instance, tests for different virus strains in aircraft wastewater.

“We think that we are much more able to identify if a new variant shows up in the United States and respond effectively,” he said. “And I think that’s what makes the need for a vaccine mandate for travelers less necessary right now.”

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PBIRx Launches “PBIRx Success Stories” Video Series Featuring Client Case Study Testimonials

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MILFORD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–PBIRx, Inc., a leading pharmacy benefit auditing and consulting firm, is excited to announce the launch of its new video series, PBIRx Success Stories. These client testimonial videos highlight the successful partnerships between PBIRx and its valued client partners. In this insightful series, clients share their experiences working with PBIRx’s team of skilled account consultants, PharmDs, and analysts to achieve substantial plan cost savings, reduce drug trends, and enhance member outcomes and satisfaction.

“We value their trust and strive to educate”

The first two videos in the PBIRx Success Stories series spotlight the successful partnership of PBIRx and two Taft-Hartley groups, featuring Tim Morrin, Fund Administrator of Automatic Sprinkler Local 281, U.A. Welfare Fund, and Phyllis Lucidi, Health Plans Administrator of Teamsters Local 35 Health Plans. Both commend PBIRx for delivering tangible results to their plan and employing unique strategies to optimize savings while protecting their members’ quality of care.

“With the savings from PBIRx, we are certainly helping our bottom line. We are improving our financial footing and building our reserves,” said Tim Morrin, Fund Administrator of Automatic Sprinkler Local 281, U.A. Welfare Fund. “The results were a million-dollar savings, 25 percent from the year previous, and we couldn’t be more pleased at the results and the savings that we got with this partnership.

“We haven’t raised our copays in years. We would like to continue to offer those low costs so that these families that are part of our local union can prosper,” Morrin added. “These are working families that are experiencing inflation.”

The PBIRx Success Stories series showcases real-life examples of how PBIRx has successfully helped numerous clients save on pharmacy benefit costs without compromising the quality of care provided to their members.

“PBIRx takes great pride in the partnerships we cultivate with our clients,” said Patricia Sirowich, PBIRx Founder and President, “and we are very grateful for the testimonials shared on our behalf by our valued client partners.

“We value their trust and strive to educate,” Sirowich said. “We see ourselves as a guide, taking our clients by the hand and leading them through the complex maze of the pharmacy benefit landscape and shining a light of transparency on Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) and pharmaceutical manufacturers and the tactics they employ to achieve excessive profits.”

“I know where my costs are and I see our plan is doing fantastic,” said Phyllis Lucidi, Health Plans Administrator of Teamsters Local 35 Health Plans. “We have a reserve that is unheard of today. Service is excellent. We can call them at any time. Our answers are at our fingertips.

“I would most definitely recommend PBIRx and for many reasons. Their reliability, their service, the value that they have brought to Teamsters 35 is of the utmost highest quality,” Lucidi added. “That’s important to our members and their families today.”

To view the “PBIRx Success Stories” video series, visit PBIRx.com.

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iHerb® and NFL Alumni Health Team Up to Provide Valuable Membership Perks

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NFL Alumni Official, Mike Brodsky, Host and Associate Editor of Super Bowl Events for Florida National News, iHerb Global Advisor Dr. Mehmet Oz, Bill Davis, NFL Alumni Health, and Kyle Richardson, NFL Alumni visits Super Bowl LVIII Radio Row at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Wednesday, February 7, 2024. Brion Price / Florida National News

IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 7, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — iHerb, one of the world’s leading e-commerce retailers for vitamins, minerals, supplements and other health and wellness products, announced a strategic alliance with the National Football League Alumni Association to offer its members and the general public access to a curated selection of wellness products.

To promote the newly formed partnership, iHerb Global Advisor Dr. Mehmet Oz was a featured speaker at the “Huddle for Health” NFL Alumni Health Symposium held Feb. 6 in Las Vegas. With numerous members and guests in attendance, Dr. Oz discussed the essential role vitamins and nutrients play in extending one’s longevity.

“One of the primary reasons our nonprofit organization exists is to help ensure the long-term health of our members,” said NFL Alumni CEO Brad Edwards. “As iHerb and Dr. Oz work together to make health and wellness more accessible, our members and supporters can access this platform as a crucial component of taking a proactive approach to optimizing their health and improving their overall well-being.”

Starting today, NFL Alumni members and fans are eligible for up to 15% off iHerb orders of $60 or more using promo code “NFLALUMNI.” As part of the NFL Alumni’s “Get What the Pros Get” initiative, iHerb is extending the “NFLALUMNI” promo code to the public for a limited time. A portion of the proceeds from each order will help the NFL Alumni advance its support of community organizations that serve children and families in need.

iHerb is proud to join other health and wellness providers that offer information, resources and tools to help NFL Alumni members enhance their quality of life long after their time on the field.

To learn more about the NFL Alumni and its charitable partners, please click here. To view all press releases from iHerb, please visit: iherb.com/pressreleases.

About iHerb:
iHerb is one of the world’s leading e-commerce destinations dedicated to offering a vast selection of vitamins, minerals, supplements and other health and wellness products. Supported by a global workforce of 3,000 team members, iHerb serves more than 10 million global active customers across more than 180 countries and 19 languages. iHerb’s sophistical global logistics network is anchored by eight climate-controlled fulfillments centers located in the U.S. and Asia, providing customers a seamless and reliable shopping experience. Founded in 1996 and based in Irvine, California, iHerb is on a mission to make health and wellness accessible to all. For more information, please visit corporate.iherb.com.

About NFL Alumni (NFLA):
NFLA is an organization with a nationwide reach comprised primarily of National Football League players, coaches, and other employees whose mission since 1967 is “Caring for our Own” and “Caring for Kids.” The mission of the NFLA is furthered by numerous efforts, including raising funds to support its members, their communities, and qualified youth-oriented charities. NFL Alumni Health is a wholly owned subsidiary of NFL Alumni, offering informational resources, programs, services, and other offerings for NFL Alumni members and the general public.

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Being Health Launches With $5.4 Million in Funding and a Mission to Bring the Best of Psychiatry and Novel Treatments Under One Roof

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Being Health Reception. Credit: Alexandra Rowley

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Being Health, a psychiatrist-founded modern mental health practice, launches today to bring the best of psychiatry, psychotherapy, novel treatments (such as ketamine infusion therapy), functional medicine and wellness services (such as acupuncture and nutrition) all under one roof for a seamless patient experience in New York City. Being Health has raised $5.4 million to date in funding from 18 Park and HDS Capital.

“Opportunities for enhancing the mental health care system are rapidly expanding and we see ourselves at the forefront of these innovations”

In a world that offers one-size-fits-all solutions, Being Health was created for patients who desire a truly personalized approach to mental health care that emphasizes the impact of both mind and body on a person’s well-being. Being Health offers a multi-dimensional approach and provides access to a diversity of evidence-based treatments to patients experiencing anxiety, depression, trauma, and stress.

Co-founded and led by Cornell-trained psychiatrist Dr. Allie Sharma, Being Health’s care team includes a diverse array of clinicians – such as psychiatrists, psychotherapists, nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), functional medicine physicians, nutritionists, acupuncturists and care advocates – all working together to provide exceptional patient care and better patient outcomes.

“We are combining the best of what is tried and tested in psychiatry with what is new and novel in our field,” said Dr. Allie Sharma, Being Health co-founder and Chief Medical Officer. “More and more Americans are grappling with mental health conditions, with far too many feeling overwhelmed by the burden of navigating their own care. At Being Health we’ve created a modern mental health practice that seamlessly incorporates a diversity of therapeutic approaches including, for example, ketamine infusion therapy for treatment resistant depression or functional medicine combined with nutritional support to optimize both health and mental health outcomes, which we know are inextricably linked.”

Being Health’s modern mental health practice is guided by empathic clinicians and clinical excellence under the leadership of Medical Director Dr. Hudson Elmore. With multiple disciplines offered under one roof, Being Health’s team of clinicians collaborate with each other to personalize care according to individual needs, offering the potential for optimized mental health outcomes.

“Being Health’s integrated model of care leveraging traditional and novel treatments is positioned to play a leading role in transforming mental health care as we know it,” said Haim Dabah, founder of HDS Capital and lead investor. “By expanding the mental health toolkit and building a team of best-in-class clinicians coupled with gold standard safety protocols, Being Health can serve as a bridge to bring innovative treatments to patients in a safe, clinical environment.

“Today there are more than fifty biotech and pharmaceutical companies investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the development of promising therapeutic applications of novel treatments with approximately thirty clinical trials in Phase II and Phase III with promising results. Upon FDA approval, these novel treatments will likely require delivery to patients in clinically-monitored settings. Being Health is poised to become first-to-market to deliver these novel treatments to patients.”

Being Health offers both in-person and virtual care, with a two-story, 7,000 square foot built-to-suit clinic located in Lower Manhattan at 76 Beaver St. The state-of-the-art facility features 22 spacious rooms for in-person services. New patients can book consultations online at beinghealth.co/book-an-appointment.

“Opportunities for enhancing the mental health care system are rapidly expanding and we see ourselves at the forefront of these innovations,” said Stephen Dabah co-founder & president. “We are creating a new standard for modern mental health care and are developing an ecosystem for the future delivery of novel treatments as they become FDA-approved.”

About Being Health

Co-founded in 2023 by Dr. Allie Sharma, a Cornell trained and board certified Psychiatrist and behavioral health strategist, and Stephen Dabah, a healthcare entrepreneur, Being Health is an integrated mental health practice that leverages the best of psychiatry, novel treatments, psychotherapy, functional medicine and wellness services to personalize care and help people feel better in their everyday state of being. Being Health is setting a new standard for mental health by bringing together diverse therapeutic modalities under one roof. The Being Health team of empathic, highly skilled clinicians collaborates to optimize outcomes for individuals seeking support and treatment across a spectrum of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma. Clinical services are offered virtually and in-person at their clinic in New York City’s Financial District, opening in January 2024. Being Health is committed to fair and transparent pricing, with prices always upfront and no surprise bills or fees. To learn more about Being Health, please visit www.beinghealth.co.

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