NEWS: NOAH to offer Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for ages 12+

PHOENIX (May 12, 2021) – Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health (NOAH), a leading community health center in Maricopa county delivering comprehensive health services to the underserved, announced today that it will offer the COVID-19 vaccine to those ages 12 and above beginning on May 21.

NOAH began rolling out COVID-19 vaccines in February, already vaccinating more than 16,000 patients, including many underserved community members. Anyone can schedule their vaccine with NOAH if they are 12 and older, regardless of whether they are a patient.

“We prioritize healthcare for every member of our community, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, that has meant adjusting, adding, and enhancing what we are doing and remaining flexible to the realities of this virus,” said Wendy Armendariz, NOAH CEO. “We are excited to provide the Pfizer vaccine to individuals 12 and older, in addition to Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The NOAH team is thrilled to be able to add this important layer of protection to families in our community.”

NOAH currently offers both the Moderna two-dose vaccine as well as the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine at various NOAH health centers. The nonprofit health center will begin offering the Pfizer two-dose vaccine in addition to the others, with the second dose given 21 days after the first. There is no cost for any COVID-19 vaccine.

At this time, Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for individuals under age 18. Five of NOAH’s nine locations currently offer COVID-19 vaccines, with two of those beginning to provide the Pfizer vaccine to 12 and older:

  • Desert Mission Health Center at 9201 N 5th St, Phoenix
  • Palomino Health Center at 16251 N Cave Creek Rd, Phoenix

Anyone can schedule their vaccine with NOAH, regardless of whether they are a NOAH patient or not and regardless of immigration status. No insurance is required for the vaccine. NOAH has bilingual staff and can help individuals schedule at https://noahhelps.org/covid-vaccine/ or by calling 480-882-4545.

Infant Immunizations Save Lives

It’s National Infant Immunization Week, and NOAH wants everyone to know how to access the vaccines your infant needs. Infants and young children are at risk serious, life-threatening diseases that are preventable with vaccines. The best thing parents and guardians can do for infants is keep them on track with both vaccines and well-child visits.

During 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, many families fell behind on their children’s vaccinations because people stayed home. This sharp decline in infant immunizations is a concern for young children and for entire communities.

Before vaccines, many children suffered from diseases like whooping cough, measles, and polio, some children had life-long challenges because of the diseases, and many died from them. When children get vaccinated, it protects them and protects others in their families and communities like people with medical conditions or infants too young to get vaccinated yet.

Now is the time to get back to your pediatrician and make sure your child is protected against 14 serious and preventable diseases.

What are the 14 diseases infant immunizations prevent?

  • Polio – infects a person’s brain and spinal cord and can cause paralysis and death.
  • Tetanus – causes painful muscle stiffness and lockjaw, and it can be fatal. Tetanus is part of the DTaP vaccine.
  • Flu (influenza) – infects the nose, throat, and lungs and can be dangerous for children of any age, particularly infants under 6 months who cannot yet get the flu shot. Children over 6-months, and parents and caregivers should get the flu vaccine.
  • Hepatitis B – a dangerous liver disease infants can get from their mother during birth, and leaves many with a lifelong illness.
  • Hepatitis A – a contagious liver disease that, unlike hepatitis B, can be spread orally.
  • Rubella – in a pregnant woman, it can cause miscarriage, infant death just after birth, and serious birth defects. Part of the MMR vaccine.
  • Hib – affects kids under 5 and can cause brain damage, hearing loss, or death.
  • Measles – Measles is very contagious! It can cause pneumonia (serious lung infection), brain damage, and deafness. Part of the MMR vaccine
  • Whooping Cough – Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be deadly to infants. Mothers should be vaccinated during pregnancy to pass some protection to their babies, and others who will be around the newborn should have a recent whooping cough vaccine. Part of DTaP vaccine.
  • Pneumococcal – causes ear, sinus, and lung infections, and can cause meningitis.
  • Rotavirus – causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach pain, and can quickly lead to sever dehydration and hospitalization.
  • Mumps – symptoms include puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, fever, head and muscle pain, and can spread quickly. Part of the MMR vaccine.
  • Chickenpox – known for the itchy rash of up to 500 blisters, chickenpox can be life-threatening, especially in babies.
  • Diphtheria – makes it hard for people to breathe or swallow, diphtheria can lead to heart failure, paralysis, and even death. Part of the DTaP vaccine.

Read more about these 14 diseases and the vaccines at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infant immunizations allow more children to live long, healthy lives. If you are unsure about what vaccines your infant, older child, or even yourself as a parent or caregiver currently need, talk to a NOAH pediatrician or family medicine provider today. You can also ask your NOAH provider any questions you have about vaccines, diseases, and vaccine schedules.

Request an appointment online or by calling 480-882-4545.

NEWS: NOAH to Reopen Cholla location in North Scottsdale

Health center offers primary care and mental health services to broader community

Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health (NOAH), a leading community health center in the Valley delivering comprehensive health services to the underserved, will officially reopen it’s Cholla Health Center today, April 19, after closing due to the pandemic in 2020.

Cholla map

One of nine NOAH Health Centers in Maricopa county, the Cholla Health Center is 6,000 square-feet with six exam rooms and three medical providers. It is located at 11130 E. Cholla St., Building I in Scottsdale just north of E. Shea Blvd. at Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd.

“NOAH prioritized the safety and health of our patients and staff during the most crucial months of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wendy Armendariz, CEO of NOAH. “Our resources were centralized, and we transitioned many healthcare appointments to telehealth whenever possible to mitigate spread while continuing to meet the needs of patients. We are excited to reopen our doors at our Cholla Health Center and serve our existing patients and welcome new patients in-person.”

Services at this location include primary care, behavioral health, psychology, and community resources. The Cholla Health Center will also provide the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to patients as well as other members of the community. NOAH accepts most insurance plans including Medicare, private insurance, AHCCCS, Kids Care, and offers a sliding scale fee for uninsured patients.

Hours of operation are from 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday for existing and new NOAH patients. Patients can make in-person or telehealth appointments by calling 480-882-4545 or online at NOAHhelps.org.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Awareness Month

By Larissa D. Wiley, PA-C

April is Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month also known as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and we all need more awareness about this issue. Awareness of STDs, prevention efforts, and appropriate treatment for STDs are critical for an individual’s health. According to the CDC, there are 20 million new STD diagnoses every year in America, however, most Americans aren’t aware that they are on the rise.

A problem on the rise

Adolescents make up over half of newly diagnosed STDs but represent only 25% of those who are sexually active.  Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD at 14 million new cases per year, followed by chlamydia at 2.8 million cases.  All demographic groups are seeing increases in diseases.

In 2018, Maricopa county ranked among the highest for chlamydia and gonorrhea cases. According to Arizona Department of Health Services, gonorrhea has increased 94% in the last five years!

Based on the increase and our 4.4 million residents in Maricopa county, in 2018 there were 27,045 chlamydia cases, 9,085 gonorrhea cases and 801 primary and secondary syphilis cases. That means Maricopa county – just one county – was responsible for 1.5% of all chlamydia and gonorrhea cases and 2.2% of all primary and secondary syphilis cases in the entire country!

What a positive diagnosis means

Many STIs have no symptoms, but they can still be passed to other people, and some STDs have lifelong consequences.  Early diagnosis and treatment are critical! Many STDs can be cured or easily managed by your medical provider.

If these diseases are not addressed:

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can result in reproductive cancers.
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is incurable and leads to a constellation of health complications including AIDS.
  • Syphilis can cause blindness, paralysis, heart damage and various neurological complications, as well as serious complications when spread from mother to baby.
  • Untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia infections can result in infertility.

Prevention is key

Thankfully, sexually transmitted diseases are largely preventable. The Gardasil9 vaccine prevents nine different high-risk forms of HPV. The HPV vaccine also reduced genital warts and cervical cancer rates by over 71% from 2006 to 2016. There is also a Hepatitis B vaccine which is available for all age groups and is over 98% effective.

Medications like the Pre-Exposure (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) reduce HIV infections; PrEP is started prior to HIV exposure and PEP is for HIV-negative patients who were exposed to someone with HIV. More information about this is available from the CDC here.

Sexually transmitted disease awareness is important to your health, and safety measures can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Use a latex or polyurethane condom, limit your number of sexual partners, avoid sexual behaviors that could compromise condom effectiveness, and test for STDs before becoming sexually active with a new partner.

If you do contract a sexually transmitted disease, seek treatment early rather than waiting; this could reduce permanent damage and spread.  Please talk to your primary care provider about any questions you may have.  At NOAH, we are here to help and answer question about all aspects of your health, including your sexual and reproductive health. Talk to a NOAH provider today!

Ask the Expert: COVID-19 Vaccine

Alicia Ottmann, MMS, PA-C | Director of Advanced Practice

COVID-19 has been part of our lives for almost a year. With the welcome news of a vaccine, there is a lot of information to understand. That’s why NOAH’s expert, Alicia Ottmann, NOAH’s Director of Advanced Practice, answered some of the most popular COVID-19 vaccine questions.

When will the vaccine be available?

There are a few different versions of the COVID-19 vaccine, all in different phases of development or use. Currently (as of Dec. 22), the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines have both received emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are starting to be distributed and administered to people who need it.

The federal and state governments have categorized groups of individuals who will receive the vaccine first, these people are the highest risk for contracting the virus or developing complications as a result of infection. Examples of those who will be vaccinated first include healthcare providers and long-term care facility residents.

The next group will include people who are at increased risk of getting severely ill or who are more likely to be hospitalized if they contract COVID-19, this includes the elderly and essential workers such as bus drivers, teachers and grocery store workers. After that, the people that the CDC identifies as needing to take extra precautions – those who are undergoing cancer treatment, living with a chronic disease, etc. – will likely be next. The priority categories are similar from state to state, but subcategories and the rate at which they move from phase to phase may have some differences depending on where people live.

Vaccinating millions of people can take time, so for those individuals in the general population, who do not get vaccinated as part of the first priority groups, vaccines will likely not become available until spring of 2021 or beyond.

Can I get vaccinated at NOAH?

NOAH doesn’t have the vaccine yet. The vaccines have arrived in Arizona but are not available for us to order just yet. We are planning on offering multiple easy ways to get vaccinated, which might include drive-up appointments or drive-through events so patients can avoid coming into the clinic.

Keep checking the NOAH COVID page for updates about the vaccine, testing and other COVID news in Maricopa County.

How will I know when the vaccine is available for me?

If you are in one of the categories that will get vaccinated first – healthcare worker, frontline employee – then you will be contacted by whatever entity has been tasked with serving your employer. For example, healthcare workers, teachers, EMS, etc., all get assigned to geographic groups. The organization in charge of that group will be responsible for scheduling all of those who are interested in getting vaccinated.

People who are high-risk or who qualify because of their age will likely be assigned to one of these geographic groups, or will be provided with vaccination sites that they can go to (the details are still being worked out).

How do register for the vaccine?

If you qualify to get the vaccine because of your job, your employer will send your information to the responsible organization and they will contact you when it is time to schedule. The health department is working on the process for the remainder of the priority groups (1b, 1c etc.).

Different zip codes have different groups, or pods, that manage that information. For example, if you work in healthcare in Mesa, you will have a specific site where you will get vaccinated.

After the highest risk individuals are vaccinated, the general public will likely be able to get the shot at primary care offices or specific pharmacies.

Will we have to take it every year like the flu shot?

At this time we are unsure. We have recently seen some changes in the virus, similar to what happens with different strains of the flu year to year. At this time the vaccine is still effective, but scientists are learning more about COVID-19 all the time.

Is the vaccine going to work?

The COVID-19 vaccines currently available do not use a live, weakened virus, unlike many of the other vaccines we are familiar with. Both vaccines currently available are about 95% effective. This means that after someone gets both doses, they will develop an immune response that will fight off the virus the majority of the time.

However, we need around 70-80% of the population vaccinated to reach herd immunity which will allow us to recover from the pandemic and the strain that it has placed on our systems. Herd immunity helps to protect our entire community, especially those who cannot get vaccinated. It’s also worth noting that right now, the vaccines aren’t authorized for children.

Will it be effective if children can’t get the vaccine?

The reason we are not able to vaccine children under 16 years old is because not enough studies have looked at the safety and effectiveness in children. Those studies are currently underway, and it is a rigorous process. Since we know it is safe for adults, we have now started looking at children, pregnant women and other populations with the hope of expanding the number of people who are candidates. It will just take more time for it to be authorized for widespread use.

What will the vaccine cost? What if I don’t have insurance?

There is no cost for the vaccine. If you have insurance, it will be billed to your insurance company, but you will not be responsible for any portion. If you don’t have insurance, there will be no cost to you as it will be covered by federal funds.

What if I get one dose and miss my appointment to get the second?

Unfortunately, if you miss the window for taking the second dose, you may have to start the vaccine process over. The effectiveness of the vaccine hinges on getting it at the right time, the studies have not looked at huge differences in timing and thus we are unsure about whether you would need to start over, or if you could get the second dose outside of the recommended window of time.

Also, it is important for you to get your second dose from the same vaccine manufacturer. If the first dose is the Pfizer COVID vaccine, then the second dose also has to be Pfizer. No switching or mixing allowed.

Will this vaccine alter my DNA because it uses mRNA?

No, it won’t alter your DNA as it never enters the nucleus of the cell. The science used for the mRNA COVID vaccines has been used safely for other medical purposes for over a decade, but COVID-19 is the first time the science has been used in widely distributed vaccines. The way it works is, instead of giving our bodies a weakened virus or portion of a pathogen to trigger our immune system to make antibodies like typical vaccines, the mRNA process is giving our body the “recipe” to make the proteins which trigger an immune response (antibodies).

And, the good news is that the process to manufacture the vaccines is faster and looks to be highly effective, maybe more effective than traditional vaccine methods!

Check back with NOAH for more updates about COVID testing and vaccines and your other healthcare needs.

Recognizing the Impact of Antibiotics

By Cody Randel

Antibiotics save and improve countless lives every day. However, antibiotic resistance is something we need to understand and face together. November 18 – 24 is Antibiotic Awareness Week in the U.S. and World Antimicrobial Awareness Week on a global scale. Antimicrobial resistance of any kind can impact everyone.

Antibiotics are part of the antimicrobial family, which also includes antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics. These medicines kill infections and diseases. Without them, humans will have a much more difficult time fighting and surviving diseases. Fortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) saw this growing problem and has made it a priority. Because diseases become more difficult to treat as antibiotic resistance increases, it will make all antimicrobials less effective.

WHO’s Five Goals to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance

  • Raise awareness 
  • Increase monitoring and research
  • Reduce infections
  • Maximize the use of antimicrobial medications 
  • Sustainable investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines, and other interventions

We rely on antibiotics to help us recover from what may seem like minor illnesses today. But these illnesses could become life-threatening if antibiotic resistance increases.

Preventing Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is increasing in all parts of the world. Changing this is a big job that requires all of us to do our part. Here are six ways you can help:

  • Only use antibiotics prescribed to you by a certified health professional.
  • Never demand antibiotics from your health worker. If you need them, they will prescribe them.
  • Always follow directions for taking medications.
  • Never share any prescriptions.
  • Prevent illnesses by washing your hands and staying away from people who are sick.
  • Get vaccinated and stay up to date on seasonal vaccines like flu.

If you have questions about medications you are taking, or about vaccines you may need, talk to your healthcare provider. If you don’t have a primary care provider, request an appointment with one of our providers.

It’s Time For Your Flu Shot

By Dr. Nikita Mathew, DO PGY1

“Every year, 10 to 40 million people are affected by the influenza virus, resulting in 140,000 to 960,000 hospitalizations annually.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Flu season typically runs from October through February every year. One of the best ways to stay healthy is with the vaccine anytime during the flu season. Flu symptoms include:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • sore throat
  • body aches

5 common questions about the flu vaccine

  1. Can I get the flu shot? Everyone over the age of 6 months is eligible for the flu vaccine. This includes special populations such as pregnant women, adults with chronic health conditions, and those over 65 years old. Exceptions to the flu vaccine are very limited, and include children less than 6 months old and those who had severe allergic reactions to the flu vaccine. You may have heard that those with egg allergies cannot get the flu shot, but the CDC recommends that these individuals still get the vaccine, but they may need to be monitored briefly afterward in a healthcare setting for allergic symptoms. There are also egg-free vaccines available.
  2. Why do I have to get the flu shot every year? The influenza virus changes year to year, so the flu vaccine you got last year likely will not protect you from the specific strain that is widespread this year. Researchers develop vaccines that will fight this year’s particular strain of the virus to maximize your protection. In addition, your immunity decreases over time so getting the vaccine annually helps build up your immunity again.
  3. When should I get the vaccine? The influenza virus is seasonal, typically starting in mid-October and peaking in winter. Your body will produce sufficient antibodies within two weeks after getting the vaccine. This is why the CDC recommends getting your flu shot sometime between September and late October. However, it’s never too late to get one, even past October. Flu shots will continue to be available well into winter and can protect you from the remainder of the flu season.
  4. Why do I feel like I have the flu after getting the shot? The flu vaccine contains an inactivated strain of the virus, meaning it cannot cause the flu but it does trigger your body’s immune response. This can result in body aches or a low-grade fever, but these symptoms are significantly less severe than those caused by the actual flu virus and resolve in 1-2 days, if present at all.
  5. How will the flu season be affected by COVID-19? Getting the flu shot is important every year, but especially this year in light of COVID-19. The pandemic has already stretched hospitals and healthcare resources pretty thin. Being vaccinated against the flu and reducing the risk of hospitalization is essential to help avoid an overlapping peak of influenza and coronavirus this winter. The flu shot will not make you more or less susceptible to COVID-19 since the viruses are completely separate.

Getting vaccinated not only helps protect you, but also helps protect your community and eases the burden on hospitals and the healthcare industry. Flu shots are currently available at NOAH clinics, so schedule an appointment today!

2019-2020 Influenza Vaccine Season – FAQ

By: Taylor Lukas, PA-C

Every year, the influenza virus causes unwanted, often severe, upper respiratory infections across the US during the months of October-May.

Influenza viruses A and B are the culprits for these infections, and if contracted, can cause

  • high fevers
  • severe coughing
  • fatigue
  • body aches
  • other upper respiratory symptoms

Consequences of this infection can range from physical discomfort and missed days from work for a young, healthy adult, to potentially severe and life-threatening complications for small children, chronically ill adults, pregnant women, and the elderly population. In the 2018-2019 season, the CDC estimated there were over 530,000 hospitalizations and over 37,000 deaths associated with influenza! Fortunately, we have an annual vaccine that targets the anticipated strains of the virus for that season and can help reduce our risk of infection! Below are a few commonly asked questions and concerns regarding the flu vaccine to help you make an informed decision.

Who should get the influenza vaccine, and when?

The flu vaccine is recommended by the CDC for all patients over 6 months of age (that do not have a contraindication to the vaccine). The vaccine is HIGHLY recommended for any adult with chronic medical conditions such as

  • asthma/COPD
  • diabetes
  • chronic kidney or liver disease
  • HIV
  • cancer
  • morbid obesity
  • elderly patients >65 years of age
  • pregnant women are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated due to risks associated with contracting the virus during pregnancy.

The ideal time to be vaccinated is before November, however it is beneficial to be vaccinated at any time during the flu season!

I am fairly healthy and don’t get sick often! Why do I need to get the influenza vaccine?

Even if the virus may not be more than an inconvenience to you, it could mean a life-threatening situation if you are to accidentally pass it along to an elderly or sick individual! You are helping protect others that may be unable to get the vaccine, as well as yourself, when you get vaccinated! Additionally, if you do catch the flu despite getting the vaccine, immunization is shown to reduce the SEVERITY and LENGTH of the illness, which allows you to get back to feeling better faster!

I always feel under the weather after I get the flu vaccine. Can I get sick from the flu vaccine?

The influenza vaccine typically administered contains an inactivated (dead) virus, so it is impossible to contract influenza from the vaccine itself. The most common side effect of a flu vaccine is arm soreness for 2-3 days after administration. Some patients report experiencing a mild headache, fatigue, or body aches after receiving the vaccine, however studies do not support a direct relationship between the vaccine itself and these symptoms. These mild potential side effects pale in comparison to the influenza symptoms that you will have protection from!

The start of the 2019-2020 influenza season is quickly approaching! Please come in and see us at any of our NOAH locations to receive a flu vaccine! Your medical provider can answer any additional questions or concerns at your office visit, and choose the flu vaccine that is appropriate for you! Here’s to a happy and healthy winter season!

The Measles – Are You Vaccinated?

By Chris Sweeney, RN – Quality Manager
“The measles is a serious and highly contagious disease that can spread quickly, so if you or your child are not vaccinated against the disease there is a risk of getting measles,” says Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
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Measles – Answers to All Your Questions!

By Dr. Amit Jain, Pediatrician

What is measles?
It is a once common childhood illness, now much rarer, thanks to the advent of the measles vaccine.
Read more