May is Mental Health Awareness Month

No matter how tough things may seem right now, there is always help available. If you or someone you know is in distress or crisis, call #988 for immediate access to mental health services. #MHAM2023 #Together4MH

APWU Health Plan Members can get support, answers, and expert care on our website.

FDA Panel to Vote on First RSV Vaccine Given in Pregnancy to Protect Infants

THURSDAY, May 18, 2023 (HealthDay News) — The first RSV vaccine designed to protect infants is under consideration by a panel of advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

An independent committee of experts will vote Thursday on whether to recommend the shot for pregnant mothers at 24 to 36 weeks gestation.

“Before the pandemic, RSV was the No. 1 cause of infant hospitalization in the United States, so this is a big deal,” Dr. Ofer Levy, director of the precision vaccines program at Boston Children’s Hospital, told NBC News. Levy is a temporary voting member of the panel, but not one who will vote on this vaccine.

If the panel recommends the vaccine, the FDA would still need to approve it, a process that could take months. The agency is not obligated to follow its advisers’ recommendations, but it usually does.

The Pfizer-made vaccine would only be the second one ever approved in the United States for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). A vaccine made by pharmaceutical company GSK was approved for adults ages 60 and up earlier this month. However, 11 RSV vaccines for various age groups are being tested in ongoing clinical trials.

When a mother-to-be receives the vaccine, protective antibodies transfer to infants through the placenta.

Safety data for the infant vaccine is “generally favorable,” according to the FDA. 

Trial participants had a slightly elevated rate of preterm births compared to the control group, according to the news report. However, that rate was still lower than that seen in the general population. The rate of preterm births among the 7,400 trial participants was 5.7% for those who received the vaccine compared to 4.7% of those who received a placebo and 10% in the general population. A trial by GSK for an infant vaccine was halted last year because of a higher preterm birth rate.

RSV generally causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It is a minor illness in healthy adults, but can be severe in more vulnerable groups, including babies and older adults.

Up to 300 children younger than 5 years die from RSV in the United States each year. Up to 10,000 people age 65 and older also die from the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a clinical trial for the vaccine, infants had an 82% lowered risk of severe disease in the first three months after birth, NBC News said. That dropped to 69% by six months. Infants also had 51% lowered risk of developing respiratory disease so severe that it required a doctor’s visit.

“Maternal immunization looks like an important piece of the puzzle, but we’re going to need more to shield into the second half of the first year [of infancy] and beyond,” Levy said.

Vaccines given in pregnancy are always concerning, he said.

“There’s always the background concern: Are you inducing some inflammation that could be a problem? Because the body reads inflammation as, ‘The woman’s no longer safe, let’s get the baby out.’ So you want a fairly bland vaccine,” Levy said.

Pfizer also has a proposal for an RSV vaccine used by older adults before the FDA panel this month. That is for the same vaccine, but for use in people ages 60 and up.

Another option, a monoclonal antibody injection, has already been approved in Canada, Europe and the United Kingdom for infants. An application for that shot is also being reviewed by the FDA. 

Vaccine side effects including fatigue, headache, muscle pain and injection site pain in pregnant women.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on RSV.


How To Take Your Child Off Your Health Insurance.

How Do I Take My Child Off My Health Insurance?

If your child is turning 26 soon you may want to make some insurance coverage changes.

If you want to stay in a Self and Family Health Benefits Plan, typically insuring more than two people, you do not need to take any action. Your child’s health insurance coverage continues for no charge for 31 days after their birthday. After that, they are not covered under your FEHB Health Benefits plan.

If you want to change your health insurance plan type to cover two or less people, you need to contact your payroll office. They will be able to switch your plan type for you and reduce the premiums taken from your paycheck. The APWU Health Plan is an insurance carrier and can’t make this switch for you as it impacts your  paycheck.

If your child still needs insurance coverage the Health Plan will send them a letter with instructions on how to enroll in our conversion plan insurance option. If you are not enrolled in the APWU Health Plan your child may purchase a Temporary Continuation of Coverage from your current insurer. Your child may also be eligible to  buy health insurance through the  government insurance marketplace (

You can learn more about taking your child off your Federal Employee Health Benefits plan by visiting the OPM website

Tips to reduce your risk of melanoma and protect your skin

Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Melanoma is a cancer that usually begins in skin cells. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancer, but it’s more likely to grow and spread. While melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, if it’s caught and treated early, it is usually curable.

Melanoma begins in the part of the skin that makes a pigment called melanin. This pigment gives skin its tan or brown color. Melanin protects the deeper layers of the skin from some harmful effects of the sun. For most people, exposure to the sun causes the skin to make more pigment. The skin, in turn, darkens or tans.

Is it safe to tan?

Although many of us love that sun-kissed glow, the American Academy of Dermatology warns that there is no safe way to tan. In fact, when you tan you’re actually damaging your skin. Over time, the damage can speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

What are the warning signs of melanoma?

Most moles, spots, and growths on the skin are harmless, but the Skin Cancer Foundation encourages everyone to look for the warning signs of melanoma and make an appointment with a doctor immediately if you see one or more of the signs.

A – Asymmetry Benign (or non-cancerous) moles tend to be symmetrical. If you drew a line through the middle of the mole, the two sides would be the same shape and size. Melanomas tend to be asymmetrical. If you drew a line through the mole, the two halves would not match.

B – Border Benign moles tend to have even borders, while the borders of a melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may have notches.

C – Color Benign moles are all one color, usually a shade of brown. A mole with a range of colors may be a warning signal of melanoma. A melanoma could be various shades of brown, tan, black, red, white, or blue.

D – Diameter Benign moles are often small. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser on a pencil, though they may start off smaller than that.

E – Evolving Benign moles tend to look the same over time. If a mole starts to change in size, shape, or color, see a doctor. The same goes for moles that bleed, itch, or become crusted.

What are the risk factors for melanoma?

While everyone is at some risk for melanoma, other factors can play a role, including the number of moles you have, your skin type, and family history. Anyone can get melanoma or another type of skin cancer, regardless of age, gender, or race.

Can using sunscreen reduce the risk of melanoma?

Sun exposure can increase your risk for developing melanoma, so it’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone should use sunscreen every time you go outside, year-round, even on cloudy days.

Look for a sunscreen that offers:

  • Broad-spectrum protection (against UVA and UVB rays)
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistance

Following a few tips can help protect your skin from sunburn, aging, and skin cancer:

  1. Use the recommended amount of sunscreen, which is one ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass. Adjust this amount depending on the size of your body and how much skin you need to cover.
  2. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before you go outside.
  3. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  4. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  5. Don’t use sunscreen that’s more than three years old. If you use the right amount of sunscreen every time you go outside, a bottle probably won’t last more than a year.

What other steps can you take to reduce the risk of melanoma?

Sunscreen alone can’t fully protect you from the harmful effects of the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends following a complete sun protection regimen to protect your skin and find skin cancer early:

  1. Seek shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  2. Don’t get a sunburn. Remember that water, snow, and sand can reflect sunlight and increase your chance of sunburn.
  3. Avoid tanning. Never use a tanning bed or booth.
  4. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  5. Check your skin for warning signs every month.
  6. See your doctor or a board-certified dermatologist for a skin exam every year. Melanoma and other skin cancers are highly treatable when caught early.

Postal Service Health Benefits (PSHB) Program

Starting in 2025 there will be a new separate program for Postal Service employees and annuitants.

The Postal Service Health Benefits (PSHB) Program is a new, separate program within the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) which will provide health insurance to eligible Postal Service employees, Postal Service annuitants, and their eligible family members starting in 2025. PSHB is a new, separate program within the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program and will be administered by OPM. Coverage under the PSHB Program will be effective January 1, 2025.

APWU Health Plan and the team at OPM, in conjunction with the United States Postal Service (Postal Service), is working tirelessly to help ensure a seamless transition and positive experience for Postal Service employees, Postal Service annuitants, and their families.
To obtain a copy of the Postal Service Health Benefits (PSHB) Program facts, visit our website at On our home page, in the “Member Resource” section near the middle of the web page, you can click to download either the “Employee Facts Sheet” or “Annuintant Facts Sheet.”

How Do I Add My Newborn or New Child To My Health Insurance?

Congratulations on your new family member! The Health Plan cannot move you from a Self Only or Self Plus One Policy.  You have to work directly with your employer to change your insurance plan type They have to process the change as they will be  taking your share of the insurance premium out of your paycheck.

To  make the change  you will need the three digit code of the plan that you are enrolling in. The codes for the APWU Health Plans  are  on the cover of our plan brochure.  You can download our brochure from our website here.  You can request a brochure online here or by calling us directly at 1-800-222-2798.

Changes to insurance are typically made during Open Season. If you have a qualifying life event you can make changes outside of outside of the normal time frame. Your employer may require proof that you are within 60 days of your qualifying life event (such as a birth certificate, adoption paperwork, etc). When you submit the insurance change you may need to include copies of these official documents.

Employees have 60 days from their qualifying life event to change their insurance coverage. If you miss this deadline you may have to wait until the insurance Open Season to change your coverage.

You should contact your payroll office to make your insurance change as soon as possible!

Seven questions to ask during well-child checkups

Following the recommended schedule for well-child visits can help protect your child’s long-term health and well-being. These appointments also give you an opportunity to talk to your pediatrician about growth, development, and behavior.

Here are seven questions to help you get the most out of your appointments:

1. Is my child growing and developing at a healthy rate?

At each visit, your pediatrician will measure your child’s height and weight. Babies and toddlers often experience rapid growth, while gaining too much weight may be an issue for older children and teens.

2. Are my child’s vaccines up to date?

Recommended vaccinations protect children from serious diseases, including hepatitis, measles, tetanus, and polio. It’s important to get vaccines on schedule because sometimes it can take multiple doses before a child is fully protected. Make sure you understand what each vaccine protects against, and remember that children age six months and older should receive an annual flu shot.

3. What foods and beverages should my child eat?

Good nutrition is essential for healthy growth and development. For babies and toddlers, you might have questions about breastfeeding or when to introduce solid foods. As children grow up, it’s important to establish healthy eating habits. Ask your doctor about foods and beverages your child should avoid and what to do if you have a picky eater.

4. How can I keep my child safe?

Talk to your pediatrician about steps you can take to child-proof your home, protect kids from exposure to the sun, and protect against infectious diseases. Depending on the age of your children, you might have questions about when it’s time to graduate from a car seat or how much screen time is appropriate.

5. Do you have any concerns about my child’s mental health?

Mental health is important at every age. Whether your child is struggling at school or having trouble making friends, identifying an issue gives your pediatrician a chance to address it. Depression and anxiety are common among children and adolescents, so don’t be afraid to bring up these issues.

6. Ask about any specific concerns you have.

Make a list of your questions before the appointment, and put the most important ones at the top. That way, you won’t forget to ask about something that has been on your mind.

7. When should I schedule our next well-child visit?

Book your next appointment before you go home. You can change the date later, if needed, but scheduling your next visit while you’re at the doctor’s office can help you stay on track.

Healthy Sleep Habits

Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep deficiency has been linked to many health problems, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.

The amount of sleep you need changes as you age. The CDC recommends that adults age 18-60  need seven or more hours of sleep per night.

You can get a better night’s sleep by making certain lifestyle adjustments.

Tips for sleeping better

  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. Use light blocking curtains or earplugs to remove distractions from your bedroom.
  • Keep a set schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday
  • Keep the same sleep schedule on your days off. Limiting the difference to no more than an hour. Big changes in your sleep schedule on the weekends can disrupt your body’s clock.
  • Turn off screens (TV, phone, and computer) for one hour before bedtime. Exposure to blue light can make it difficult for you to fall and stay asleep.
  • Avoid stimulants. Stimulants are substances that can interfere with sleep. Common stimulants are nicotine and caffeine (coffee, soda, tea and chocolate). Caffeine can take up to 10 hours to completely clear from your system.

When to see a doctor

If you are still having difficulties sleeping after adopting better sleep habits you may need to seek medical advice.  Doctors can assess if you have a sleep disorder or other condition. They can also discuss possible treatment options for any sleep disorder you may have. 50-70 million Americans have sleep disorders.

Getting enough sleep can improve your mental and physical health. By following the tips above you can improve your sleep today.