Scott Administration Releases More Details for “Phase 2” Vaccination – Registration to Open Jan 25th
During the press conference last Friday, January 15th, Agency of Human Services Secretary Smith provided more details on what Vermonters can expect in the next stages of COVID-19 vaccination as the state approaches completion of Phase 1A. As previously announced, the State will be transitioning to the next phase of vaccination and will start with individuals age 75 or older. A statewide registration system will open on January 25th, with the first clinics being scheduled for January 27th.
Registration will be available via an online system and phone call-in centers – Secretary Smith urged families to assist the process by using the online system to avoid the phone system being overwhelmed. Secretary Smith also urged Vermonters not to call their local hospital, physician or the Department of Health, as registration is not available through those avenues and will not open until the 25th. More details will be released closer to the 25th. Secretary Smith stated that approximately 49,000 Vermonters are 75 or over and it could take about 6 weeks to vaccinate this population since the state is only receiving 8-9,000 doses a week. Approximately 7,200 doses per week can be administered by state run clinics, which are in development now, with 12 locations currently being planned across the state.
Details are also being developed to make vaccines available at other sites, such as hospitals and pharmacies. After those 75 and older are vaccinated, the same system will be opened up for those 70+, then 65+, modifying the pacing of the age bands based on vaccine dose availability. The state expects to complete those age 65 and older by the end of winter (March/early April). After age 65+, the state will expand to those age 18-65 with medical conditions that put them at risk of severe illness as recognized by the CDC (meaning risk of hospitalization, admission to ICU, ventilation or death). Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine stated that Vermont is prioritizing the following conditions:
- Current cancer
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD Heart conditions such as heart failure
- Immunocompromised state such as related to organ transplant
- Severe obesity
- Type 2 diabetes
- Down syndrome
- Sickle cell disease
Click here for full notes from the press conference.
Primary Care Role in COVID 19 Vaccine Administration
Vermont Medical Society staff continues to meet with Vermont Department of Health Staff to clarify the role of primary care practices in administering the COVID-19 vaccine. At this point, while the dose supply received in Vermont remains extremely limited, the plan is to administer the vaccine through community vaccination sites operated by the state or state contractors. An RFP is currently open for partners able to help provide regional or statewide vaccination logistics, with the deadline to respond to the RFP being today, January 19th. Frequently Asked Questions responding to the RFP clarify that practices do not need to submit a proposal if they intend only to vaccinate their own patients, in which case they should enroll in the vaccination program. This RFP seeks proposals supporting state-wide vaccination efforts; public or community vaccination sites that involve offering vaccine administration to more than a provider’s patient panel; and requires use of the State’s registration system (or a functionally similar system).Additional updates include:
- The Vermont Department of Health is planning to provide a communication for primary care practices to give to patients who have questions about how to register for vaccines, how to answer screening questions asked when registering; and with more information about the high risk conditions that may allow patients to qualify.
- The Vermont COVID 19 Vaccine Implementation Advisory Committee met on Friday, January 15th and focused on refining the list of high risk chronic conditions – the Committee will meet again on January 29th.
Recent COVID-19 Guidance and Resources:
VMS Weekly Zoom with Commissioner of Health, Thursdays at 12:30 pm
Policy for Practices to Obtain COVID-19 Test Results
VDH has created a policy for clinicians to obtain COVID-19 test results on a patient tested through the on-demand (CIC) or pop up (VDH) testing sites. “Providers should first check VITL for any testing completed through Dr. Levine’s orders – this will be the most expedient and immediate way to access results. If they do not have access to VITL, and cannot gain access to VITL, then the provider may contact: email@example.com and provide the name and date of birth of their patient and the request for their results in order to help treat that patient.” This was brought to the attention of VMS Friday and we will work with VDH to understand this process more. We realize that this will present more administrative burden to practices, but currently there is no mechanism for alerting a primary care provider when a test has occurred except for patient self-attesting.
Competency to Stand Trial Bill Has First Hearing in Senate
Last Thursday, January 14th, the Senate Judiciary Committee held an introductory hearing on S.3 (this year’s forensic mental health bill). This year’s bill appears to have broad support in the Committee and from the Department of Mental Health (DMH), among other stakeholders. Last year’s forensic mental health bill passed the full Senate, but stalled during the COVID-19 public health emergency and was not taken up in the House. VMS and the VPA specifically support the inclusion of the creation of a forensic mental health system in Vermont. S.3 proposes the creation of a forensic mental health workgroup, which would be charged with analyzing solutions applied in other states in order to identify an effective methodology to create a forensic mental health system for Vermont. Other mental health bills introduced this session are:
- H.1, an act relating to mental health insurance benefits.
- H.2, an act relating to an integrated mental health budget.
- H.7, an act relating to a forensic mental health working group.
- H.19, an act relating to competency to stand trial.
HHS’ New Guidance Eliminates Need For Federal Waiver to Prescribe Buprenorphine
According to NPR, the Trump Administration introduced new addiction treatment guidelines last Thursday, designed to improve access to medication-assisted treatment(MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD). The guidance gives clinicians more flexibility and eliminates a long-standing requirement that physicians obtain a special federal waiver in order to prescribe buprenorphine. Under these new guidelines, doctors who possess a Drug Enforcement Administration registration will still be limited to treating no more than 30 in-state patients with buprenorphine for addiction treatment at any one time. Nurse practitioners or physician assistants will still need to apply for separate waivers to prescribe buprenorphine. To read the NPR article, click here.
New Paycheck Protection Program Resources
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reopened for new and existing borrowers the week of January 11th, 2021 and will accept applications through March 31, 2021 from participating Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Certified Development Companies (CDCs), and Microloan Intermediaries. This application period of the PPP is first come, first serve and will accept First Draw PPP loan applications from small businesses with 500 or fewer employees and Second Draw PPP loan applications from small businesses with no more than 300 employees who have already received a first draw loan. For the latest information, please go to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. The following resources are available to assist with the application process: