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COVID-19 Vaccination Briefs for May 17, 2021

The following are COVID-19 briefs for May 17, 2021.

CDC Guidance Eases Mask Restrictions

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the easing of indoor mask restrictions for fully vaccinated people except for certain crowded indoor settings. Masks are still required in health care settings, and the Cuomo Administration is also still reviewing the guidance to determine whether to adopt it in New York State.

“We have received the newly revised guidance from the CDC regarding mask wearing and social distancing for those with vaccinations and are reviewing them in consultation with Dr. Zucker and our partners and health experts in surrounding states,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement.

NY Moves to Universal Doses

Effective May 11, New York is moving to a “Universal Dose” administration process for all multi-dose COVID-19 vaccine types. All doses are now considered universal doses, which means that doses can be used for a first dose or a second dose, irrespective as to whether they were originally shipped to providers as a first dose or a second dose.

First and second doses may also be drawn interchangeably from the same vial. With all doses being a universal dose, administrators are asked to utilize a first in, first out rule to manage inventory. This includes storing newly received vaccine in the freezer until it is needed. COVID-19 vaccine providers should continue to follow the vaccine ordering and inventory guidance in their jurisdiction (i.e., NYC or NYS) to request their weekly vaccine allocations.

These changes also will be reflected in the next update to the NYS COVID-19 Vaccine Program Guidance.

Questions can be sent to COVIDvaccinenotused@health.ny.gov.

Increased Medicaid Payment for Vaccine Administration 

New York Medicaid will now pay $40 to administer the COVID-19 vaccine — an increase from the current rate of $13.23. HCA has been advocating for higher rates. While this is still inadequate, we appreciate DOH’s effort to obtain federal approval for such an increase. 

The change is announced in an updated Coverage Policy and Billing Guidance for the Administration of COVID‑19 Vaccines Authorized for Emergency Use.

Vaccinations for those Age 12 to 15

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age.

In response, Governor Cuomo directed state Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force to conduct a concurrent review. The Governor accepted their recommendation and authorized all providers enrolled in the NYS COVID-19 vaccination program to expand eligibility for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to people in the 12-15 age group.

An updated Food and Drug Administration “Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine” is here.

New DOH Guidance on Expanded Eligibility 

DOH has issued a new May 13 Guidance for The New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Program, which includes some updates reported elsewhere in this article on expanded eligibility to individuals 12 to 15 years of age and the state’s move to a “universal dose” administration process.

In addition, effective immediately, reporting to the NYS COVID-Vaccine Tracker is no longer required.  

The guidance also includes a section on “responsible wastage,” stating that: “While enrolled providers must continue to follow best practices to use every dose possible, it should not be at the expense of missing an opportunity to vaccinate every eligible person when they are ready to get vaccinated.

Homebound Vaccination Resource

The Trust for America’s Health has released “Ensuring Access to COVID-19 Vaccines for Older Adults and People with Disabilities Who Are Homebound.”