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This week we will be covering  the new COVID-19 booster vaccine, a new approach to mental healthcare, and UnitedHealthcare's startup accelerator
CDC Authorizes New COVID-19 Booster Use
Image by <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/flat-hand-drawn-doctor-injecting-vaccine-patient_12428495.htm#query=vaccine&position=5&from_view=search">Freepik</a>

The FDA recently approved new booster shots to help combat the new BA.5 omicron variant of COVID-19. This is the first time the FDA has updated the vaccines since the original vaccine distribution in late 2020. America has already secured 171 million vaccines of Moderna and Pfizer to begin administer to Americans. Now that the updated shots have been authorized, the old booster shots will be taken out of circulation. Before the shots can officially be given to patients, an independent advisory committee from the CDC has to give approval for the vaccine. 

The BA.5 variant has quickly become the most popular variant spreading across America, and scientists are hoping that the new booster will help alleviate some of the negative effects of the variant. This specific booster targets the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, making it a bivalent vaccine. As a consequence of mutations of the virus, vaccines are slowly becoming less effective to prevent contracting COVID-19. Despite this, they are still responsible for dramatically decreasing hospitalization rates and severity of illness.

New Approach to Mental Healthcare
Image source:<a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-world-mental-health-day_9697075.htm#query=mental%20healthcare&position=2&from_view=search">Image by pikisuperstar</a> on Freepik

Erin von Fempe is a social worker who has recently garnered attention for her acts of social work and kindness. Von Fempe is employed by the police department in Mount Vernon, Virginia, but unlike a typical police officer she works to help and create accessibility to resources for the homeless population of the Mount Vernon area. Von Fempe works to buy people meals, sign them up for shelters, and even find jobs.

Von Fempe’s approach and style of directly helping populations is a newer concept and one that is raising much discussion on the new ways work can be done to provide homeless people with proper resources, especially those regarding mental health. This method demonstrates a collaboration between social workers and agencies and law enforcement, which can prove to be a powerful tool to create tangible change. Despite rising prospects and potential, von Fempe also discusses the troubles and how sometimes the task list can become overwhelming, something that she is learning how to balance.

BLUEPRINTS SPOTLIGHT
Charan Talwar is a senior at the University of Michigan where he is studying Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience with a minor in Food. He is interested in the holistic mind-body connection and using lifestyle strategies to combat preventable diseases before they occur. Charan plans to attend medical school and become a clinician while combating healthcare disparities from within the field.
Mental Health Startups in UnitedHealthcare Startup Accelerator
Image Source:  <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/start-up-scribbled-notepad_3109353.htm#query=startup&position=0&from_view=search">Image by rawpixel.com</a> on Freepik

A few years ago, health and well-being company UnitedHealthcare launched an annual startup accelerator to provide 10 startup companies opportunities to develop their ideas. The companies in each year’s cohort receive $50k in uncapped SAFE and expert mentors across areas including technology, clinical, and finance.

This year’s cohort includes mental health startups, a pregnancy care platform, and an early-disease detection AI company. One of the mental health startups is Mood Health, which connects people seeking mental health treatment to clinicians. The second is YourPath, a startup that aims to increase access to treatment for substance-use disorder through holistic care coordination. While funding for mental health companies peaked in 2021, deals have since slowed down so accelerators like this are a good opportunity for growth.

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