October 5th, 2021


Please Join VMS in Honoring the 2021 Leadership Award Recipients

Every year, VMS asks our members to nominate Vermont leaders who have provided outstanding contributions to the medical profession, to health organizations and to the welfare of the public. VMS isproud to announce this year's 2021 Leadership Award Recipients, who have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to the health of their patients and all Vermonters through the stress of the ever-evolving pandemic. The recipients are:

  • Physician of the Year Award goes to Saeed Ahmed, M.D.
  • Physician Award for Community Service goes to Kristen Pierce, M.D.
  • Citizen of the Year Award goes to Christine Finley, RN, MPH
  • Founders' Award goes to the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter
  • Distinguished Service Award goes to Trey Dobson, M.D. 

These awards will be presented on Friday, November 5th at 7pm, as part of the virtual 208th Annual & Collaborative meeting of the Vermont Medical Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter, the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians and the Vermont Psychiatric Association on November 5 & 6th, 2021. All 2021 Annual Meeting activities will be held virtually. For more information on the agenda click here. Register for the membership meeting here


Pfizer Booster Shots Now Available to All Eligible Groups

In Vermont, anyone is now eligible to get a booster shot of Pfizer vaccine if they received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine six months ago or more, and

  • are age 65 or older, or
  • are age 18 or older with certain medical conditions that put you at high risk of getting severely ill with COVID-19, or
  • are age 18 or older and are more likely to be exposed to or spread COVID because of where you work, or
  • are age 18 or older and are Black, Indigenous or a person of color (BIPOC), or are age 18 or older and live with someone who is BIPOC.

Visit https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine/getting-covid-19-vaccine for the list of health conditions, eligibility based on work and information about scheduling an appointment.

The FDA has announced that its vaccine advisory committee will meet on October 14 and 15 to discuss the use of booster doses of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. The committee will also hear presentations and discuss the available data on the use of a booster of a different vaccine than the one used for the primary series of an authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine (heterologous or “mix and match” booster).  They meet on October 26th to discuss an anticipated request from Pfizer to amend its emergency use authorization to allow the use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children 5 through 11 years of age.


State of Vermont Strengthens School Testing Program

The State of Vermont last week distributed resources and information to all Vermont public and independent schools to enable them to establish COVID-19 response testing in every school across Vermont. The State is bolstering existing testing tools with rapid testing to help keep more kids in school.

The COVID-19 response testing program consists of three complementary testing tools, each used for different scenarios, giving schools flexibility to respond directly to specific cases in their learning community:

  • Test to Stay allows unvaccinated students who are close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case to take a daily antigen test at the beginning of the school day, rather than remaining at home. Students who test negative go to class and in-school extracurricular activities as normal, as long as they have no symptoms. Students test until seven days have passed since they were last exposed to the case. This program is modeled after successful programs in Massachusetts and Utah and has been supported by Vermont’s pediatric community and infectious disease experts at the University of Vermont.
  • PCR Response Testing allows schools to conduct a wide range of PCR testing in response to case(s) in their learning community. This includes testing unvaccinated close contacts out of quarantine, testing vaccinated close contacts three (3) to five (5) days after exposure, and testing symptomatic students who test negative with an antigen test. Schools administer the testing on site.
  • Take Home PCR Testing allows schools to distribute kits to students, staff and family members who need a test. Families can follow simple instructions to register the kit using a smartphone or web browser, collect the sample, and either send back to the lab themselves with a pre-paid shipping label, or return to the school for shipping. These kits are intended for students quarantining at home, family members of COVID-19 positive students, or anyone in the learning community who needs a test.

Families will hear directly from their school about testing programs in their community. Schools will receive additional resources and information next week. Information can be found on the Agency of Education’s COVID-19 Testing Family Resources webpage and COVID-19 Response Testing At-A-Glance.


Modeling Report Shows Improvement in Vermont’s COVID Cases

At today’s Administration press conference, Commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak reported that Vermont’s COVID-19 cases have decreased 15% over the last 7 days and have decreased 23% over the last 14 days. Vermont hospitalizations for COVID-19 have also decreased 14% among those who are fully vaccinated and 30% among those not fully vaccinated. U.S. infections, hospitalizations and deaths have also decreased while a note of caution is that cases are still increasing in nearby New Hampshire and Maine. Secretary of the Agency of Human Services Mike Smith stated that the Administration is working with hospitals to address stresses on the hospital system caused by delayed care and difficulties transferring patients to mental health facilities or long term care by, among other solutions, increasing open beds at the Brattleboro Retreat and increasing staffing at several nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities.


Action Required: CCB Seeking Public Comment on Draft Warning Labels and Advertising Regulations for Commercial Cannabis Market

Thursday, September 30th, the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) Public Health Sub-Advisory Committee approved draft warning labels (slide 31/page 32) for cannabis product packaging. These draft warning labels have been sent for review by the Vermont Department of Health (VDH).  The CCB will then release final draft warning label regulations for public comment. The CCB Public Health Sub-Committee is one of six advisory sub-committees required by Act 164 (2020) and Act 62 (2021) to develop the regulations required to buildout a legal cannabis marketplace in Vermont and is made up of Commissioner of Health, Dr. Mark Levine, along with Ingrid Jones, a retired Vermont State Police Officer and Tim Wessel, a Brattleboro Select Board member. The CCB has outlined a very aggressive timeline of October 20th as their deadline to draft regulation proposals for packaging & labeling rules; advertising & marketing rules; and developing regulations for edibles. 

Within this agressive timeline, the CCB provides opportunity for public comment. This process would benefit from your clinical expertise and we urge you to weigh in on the need to design warning and labeling regulations that will not target Vermont youth. Please send your comments to Jill at jsudhoffguerin@vtmd.org or Click here to provide public comment.


Biden Administration Reverses Gag Rule on Family Planning Clinics

HHS announced yesterday that it has issued a final rule to “strengthen the Title X family planning program, fulfilling the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to restore access to equitable, affordable, client-centered, quality family planning services.”  Among other things, the rule restores the ability of federally-funded family planning clinics to refer women seeking abortions to a provider, reversing a Trump-administration ban on such practices – and which had led to many family planning clinics across the country, including in Vermont, to leave the Title X program.  The final rule becomes effective on November 8, 2021.


Applications for Phase 4 of Provider Relief Fund Open Until Oct. 26th

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has opened the new application cycle for $25.5 billion in Phase 4 of COVID-19 provider funding. Clinicians can apply for the funds now through October 26, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Applicants will be able to apply for both Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 and American Rescue Plan (ARP) Rural payments during the application process. 

PRF Phase 4 is open to a broad range of clinicians with changes in operating revenues and expenses. ARP Rural is specifically available to clinicians who serve rural patients covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). See a detailed list of eligible provider types here.

HHS recently hosted a briefing session to provide information about these upcoming funding opportunities – view the video here. HRSA will also host webinar sessions featuring guidance on how to navigate the application portal.

    Real time technical assistance is available by calling the Provider Support Line at (866) 569-3522 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.


    AMA Offers Racial Health Equity Toolkit for Your Practice

    As part of the AMA's commitment to dismantling structural racism within medicine and to advancing health equity they have developed a toolkit entitled, "Racial and Health Equity: Concrete STEPS for Smaller Practices." The toolkit is offered through the AMA Ed Hub Health Equity Education Center and is designed to help clinicians "translate your commitment to racial and health equity into action in your practice." For the AMA's strategic plan regarding health equity click here. For more AMA health equity resources click here. 


    AHS Seeks Feedback on One-Year All-Payer Model Agreement Extension

    The Vermont Agency of Human Services is currently taking comments on a proposal to negotiate a one-year extension of the State of Vermont’s All-Payer Accountable Care Organization Model Agreement (APM) between the State and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). The current Agreement expires at the end of 2022; it was a five-year agreement that began in 2018. The Agreement is limited to outlining Medicare’s participation in Vermont’s payment reform efforts. 

    The State must submit a proposal to CMMI by December 31, 2021 and continues to accept comments on a one-year extension. Please send feedback to Jessa Barnard at VMS at jbarnard@vtmd.org to inform VMS Comments on the extension. Comments can also be submitted directly to AHS at Kristin.kellett@vermont.gov with the subject line “APM Extension Comments.”


    Guaranteed Individual Disability Insurance for UVMMC Residents and Fellows

    The Pastore Financial Group is offering this guaranteed individual disability insurance program to all UVM residents and fellows, underwritten by Ohio National Life Insurance Company. For any resident and/or fellow, the fall enrollment window is July through October (normally September but we received an extension this year). There is an additional Spring enrollment window for residents and fellows in their final year, which is typically May through July. Details about the program can be found in the attached PDF.

      This Thursday! VMS Hosts COVID-19 Clinical Conversation

      Please join us this Thursday, October 7th from 12-30-1:00 pm for the second VMS-hosted "COVID-19 Clinical Conversation." We will be joined by a number of health care professionals who will provide an update on COVID-19 vaccine boosters, school testing strategies, COVID-19 considerations for patients during pregnancy, and the upcoming EUA approval for COVID-19 vaccines for 5-11 yrs old. Please check our Thursday schedule, where we will alternate between a VMS hosted conversation with Commissioner Levine and our new COVID-19 Clinical Conversations on the specifically listed Thursdays from 12:30 – 1:00pm. These conversations will be designed to cover the most pressing COVID-related issues during the time period surrounding each discussion. Please reach out to Stephanie Winters at swinters@vtmd.org to share topics you think we should cover. 

      VPQHC-NETRC TELEHEALTH OFFICE HOURS: Spotlight on the UVM Center on Rural Addiction (CORA)

      Wednesday, October 6th, 12 - 1 pm

      The UVM Center on Rural Addition (CORA) leverages innovative technology and telehealth strategies to deliver support to providers in rural counties which have been disproportionately impacted by Substance Use Disorder (SUD). CORA faculty and staff provide a broad menu of science-based solutions to help providers treat patients with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), other Substance Use Disorders (SUDs), and co-occurring issues. To register for this session please email hillaryw@vpqhc.org

      Howard Center Free Speaker Series, "Supporting Resilience in the Face of Unrelenting Uncertainty"

      October 7th, 12:00-1:00 pm

      The Howard Center is hosting this free speaker series in recognition of World Mental Health Day. Join Dr. Simha Ravven, CMO at Howard Ctr. and VMS President for her discussion on ways caretakers can care for themselves and support resilience in themselves and others in times of ongoing stressRegistration required: click here.  

      Vermont Center for Behavior and Health: "Innovations in Tobacco Control and Regulatory Science to Decrease Cigarette Smoking"

      October 7- 8, 2021

      Register for this free virtual conference here: Annual Conference (uvm.edu) This includes the UVM Center on Rural Addiction's Lunch and Learn on Friday, October 8th from 12-1:15 PM on 
      Rural Vaping and Tobacco Use: Prevalence, Considerations, and Interventions.

        Sponsored jointly bythe Mayo Clinic,
        Stanford University and the American Medical Association

        American Conference
        on Physician Health
        October 7- 9, 2021

        Achieving the quadruple aim: Resilient systems in times of crisis.” Joint scientific conference that promotes scientific research and discourse on health system infrastructure, and the actionable steps organizations like yours can take to improve physician well-being.

        • Registration rates: Available through Thursday, Sept. 23.
        • To register for conference and view agenda, visit the ACPH 2021 homepage.


        Vermont Medical Society

        134 Main Street

        Montpelier, VT 05602

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