May 14, 2021

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RCM study reveals findings on social, economic and mental health impact during pandemic


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SAN JUAN – The population study PREPCOVI (Puerto Rico-Epidemiological Evaluation and Prevention for COVID-19 and Influenza) of the Medical Sciences Campus (RCM) of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) revealed this Monday findings of the investigation that evaluates the prevalence and distribution of COVID-19 and Influenza over time.

The study addresses issues such as the social, economic and mental health impact during the pandemic, as well as vaccination against COVID-19, the UPR Medical Sciences campus reported in a written communication.

PREPCOVI is a collaborative effort between the Center for Clinical Research and Health Promotion and other units of the University of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Department of Health, the Telecommunications Bureau, and telecommunications companies. This study uses novel and up-to-date technological approaches to enable continuous large-scale surveillance.

“Among 4,655 participants recruited in PREPCOVI from November 2020 to March 31, 2021, we found 98 confirmed cases (RT-PCR positive) representing 2.1 percent of the study population and 292 total cases (confirmed / probable) (6.3 percent) from closing to March 31, 2021. Since many potential cases may not have been evaluated or people may not know or report the type of test they had, people were considered probable cases if they reported having tested positive on any test or for key symptoms, similar to a published study. Younger people (21-49) were more likely to have been classified as a positive case of COVID-19 compared to people older than 50 years, and there appeared to be a higher prevalence in the Northeast region, ”explained Dr. Kaumudi Joshipura, Principal Investigator and Professor at the RCM School of Dental Medicine.

COVID-19 vaccination

Among the 2,884 participants tested between January 1 and March 31, 2021, who provided vaccination information, 33.0 percent received one or more doses (15 percent received one dose and 18 percent received two doses).

Despite risk-based phasing plans and free vaccine distribution, there appear to be significant constraints to equitable vaccine distribution. People with an income greater than $ 60,000 were more than twice as likely to be vaccinated (46 percent vaccinated) compared to those who responded with an income less than $ 20,000 (19 percent vaccinated).

Among participants with a high school degree or more, 36.9 percent were vaccinated compared to 18.7 percent who own less than a high school. The highest reported vaccination frequency was in the Bayamón region, with 35.7 percent vaccinated, and the Mayagüez region with 35.1 percent vaccinated. The lowest percentage of vaccination was observed in the Fajardo region (23.9 percent).

After completing the primary survey, 1,234 (42.1 percent) PREPCOVI participants agreed to answer one of three optional modules that assess COVID-19 progression and risk / preventive factors; Knowledge, attitudes and practices; and Social, economic and mental health impact.

Among the 1,234 participants, 57 percent responded to COVID-19 risk and preventive factors, and of those, 31.7 percent were vaccinated (15.9 percent one dose, 15.9 percent two doses). Most were vaccinated in a vaccination center (34.3 percent), or in a hospital or medical center (22.7 percent); 50.2 percent reported having received the Pfizer vaccine and 48.4 percent Modern. Of those vaccinated, 49.1 percent (n = 105) of participants reported short-term side effects, and 51.4 percent of respondents experienced side effects after the first dose, 29.5 percent after the second dose and 19.1 percent after both doses. Among all those vaccinated, 26.8 percent reported injection site pain as the main side effect.

Among the 320 participants who answered questions about Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices about COVID-19 and Influenza, 65.3 percent reported not being vaccinated. Of these, 71.8 percent are willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, 19.9 percent are unsure, and 6.8 percent are not willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. For those who are unwilling to get vaccinated, the main reason was concern about the safety and health impact of available COVID-19 vaccines. Of the unvaccinated participants, 44.9 percent said they qualified to receive the vaccine based on age, health, or work criteria. Among healthcare workers, 78.4 percent of participants received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 32.1 percent of other essential workers and 19 percent of other responders.

Mental health

PREPCOVI has also been evaluating the social, economic and mental health impact during the pandemic. A total of 211 participants responded to this module from January to March. Of these participants, 48.8 percent reported being moderate to extremely concerned about becoming infected with COVID-19 in the past 30 days.

In terms of self-reported mental health assessment over the past 30 days, 43.1 percent felt very to moderately anxious and 29.9 percent felt sad / depressed. Additionally, 45.5 percent felt extremely to moderately nervous, 40.3 percent exhausted. While 50.5 percent of those surveyed had reported that they or a family member experienced a reduction in the ability to earn money due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the past 30 days. Additionally, 17.6 percent reported that they or a family member lost their job or were fired in the past 30 days.

Drug use

As part of the study, respondents were also asked about substance use in the past 30 days. Among the 211 participants, 44.1 percent do not drink alcohol, 98.6 percent have not used opioids, and 92.4 percent have not used cannabis. However, 14.2 percent responded that in the past 30 days they drank alcohol several times a week or more and 4.8 percent used cannabis. Overall, 76.8 percent have never used legal / illegal substances or prescription drugs.

The researchers encouraged the population to participate in the study and share this information and the study link with family, friends, and coworkers.

“This study is very important as it helps us understand the COVID-19 situation and its impact, as well as the distribution and challenges of vaccination in Puerto Rico. Together we can overcome this public health emergency! ”Said Dr. Joshipura.

The PREPCOVI study uses new and updated technological approaches to enable large-scale surveillance. Potential participants will receive a text message from the number (787) 493-9302 with the following announcement: “Be part of this very important study for Puerto Rico, PREPCOVI. It consists of an anonymous and secure 5-minute questionnaire about COVID-19 and Influenza. The UPR and the Department of Health invite you to press the link to participate… ”.

“The survey lasts only five minutes, participation in this study is safe and does not carry any risk, since no personal information about the participant is retained, including their telephone number,” concluded Dr. Segundo Rodríguez Quilichini, rector of the RCM.



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