Consumers Committee Minutes, February 16, 2021

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CONSUMERS COMMITTEE

Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 1:05 – 3:00PM

By Zoom Video Conference

MINUTES

Committee Members Present: Lisa Best (Co-chair), Randall Bruce (Co-chair), Atif Abdul-Haqq, Asia Betancourt, Paul Carr, Maria Diaz, Billy Fields, Lawrence Francis, Charmaine Graham, Graham Harriman, David Martin (Consumer-at-Large), Michael Rifkin, Leo Ruiz, John Schoepp, Rob Walker

DOHMH: Melanie Lawrence,José Colón-Berdecía, Kimbirly Mack

Guest: Angela Soto (DOHMH)

Agenda Item #1: Welcome/Introductions/Review of the Meeting Packet

Lisa opened the meeting, followed by introductions and a moment of silence.  The review of the minutes of the January 19, 2021 meeting were deferred.

Agenda Item #2: COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Angela, DOHMH staff working on COVID-19 vaccine community engagement, presented on the vaccine.  Transmission of the coronavirus in NYC is down but is still high, and new variants may mean easier transmission and more severe illness; older adults are still the most severely impacted.  Close to 2 million people in NYC have received at least one dose, but many more are needed to reach herd immunity.  People of color are not getting vaccinated at as high a rate and more education and outreach is needed in those communities.  Hundreds of people are still dying each week in NYC, and while no vaccine works 100%, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and prevents severe symptoms.  Hardly anyone who has been vaccinated has gotten severely ill.  The vaccine is available to all regardless of insurance or ability to pay.  Vaccinated people may still be able to transmit the virus.  The vaccine was developed rapidly, but through a world-wide effort went through every step of clinical trials as any other vaccine involving thousands of people across the world with high participation of people of color.  The technology used (messenger RNA) has been around for a while, especially for some cancer treatments.  No actual virus is used; the vaccine uses genetic instructions to prompt the body to develop antibodies to the virus.  Two vaccines are currently available and more are close to approval.  The CDC is keeping track of all potential side effects in a public data base.  The risks of side effects is minor compared to the risk of a severe case of COVID-19.  It is not known yet how long the protection lasts and if a booster will be needed at some point.  Also, the efficacy in children is not known yet. 

Those currently eligible include adults with certain underlying conditions, including HIV.  When making an appointment, you just have to attest that you have an underlying condition, but not specify which one.  Getting an appointment is currently difficult due to demand outstripping supply (go to vaccinefinder.nyc.gov).  It is vital to get the second dose to ensure protection.  Expected reactions from the vaccine (usually after the second dose) can include soreness at the injection site, aches, slight fever, tiredness.  These can be alleviated with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and only last a short time.  Allergic reactions are very rare, and people should be monitored for at least 15 minutes after being vaccinated.  People with severe allergies should get the vaccine at sites where there are clinicians present.  Even vaccinated people need to maintain COVID preventive practices (masks, physical distancing, etc.). 

A summary of the Q&A follows:

  • Greater supply and capacity to administer will be required before it’s available as easily as the flu vaccine.  The need for refrigeration at very low temperatures is also a barrier to wider distribution.
  • There’s still not enough data on the long-term level of immunity.  Research is ongoing and people who participated in the clinical trials are being monitored.
  • It is highly recommended that people return to the same location for their second shot.
  • As more people are vaccinated, there may be less compliance with mask usage.  N95 masks are the most effective kind of mask and need to be more widely available. 
  • Knowledge of long-term effects of vaccines is limited due to their newness.  They will be studied for years, but we do know that COVID-19 infection can lead to many severe symptoms and death.
  •  There are no known interactions between the COVID vaccine and other vaccines.
  • Chain pharmacies are still not allowing people with newly eligible underlying conditions to schedule appointments.  They are focusing on the over 65 population.
  • There needs to be more education through community organizations to allay fears in harder hit communities where there is greater mistrust.
  • While getting a vaccine appointment is currently challenging, one possible place to turn for assistance is calling 877-828-4692 (877-vax-4nyc).
  • It is necessary for health departments to reinforce social distancing and wearing face coverings in public (e.g., subways/buses, retailers, etc.), as adherence is relaxed.

Agenda Item #3: Other Business

The minutes of January 19th meeting were approved, with the additional note that MetroPlus may change its policy around the accumulator.

Melanie reported that there is an indexed folder on Google Drive with all documents related to older PWH that have been collected.  All Committee members have access to the folder.   Volunteer medical intern Daniel Laub is reviewing the materials to create a summary.  Graham noted that Jules Levin’s presentation summarizes many of the information from the other materials.  Staff has had internal discussions about getting access to hard copies of materials for people.  Moises Agosto-Rosario from NMAC will be at the March meeting to present on disparities and health equity for older PWH.

The Committee agreed to give Darryl Wong a plaque at the March Committee meeting in honor of his work with consumers.  People were encouraged to send any photos of Darryl or videos to Melanie create an e-card and collage.  The meeting will start at 12:30 and the final hour dedicated to Darryl.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.