COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, December 14, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, December 14, 2020
  • Clarification from FDA on allergy risk from vaccine; a reminder of how the mRNA vaccine technology works; Medicare coverage for the vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccinations began today, starting with frontline healthcare workers.


  • A bipartisan group of legislators officially introduced their $908 billion COVID-19 relief legislation, which seeks to strike a compromise between competing proposals championed by Republicans and Democrats.
    • Their proposal is split into two different bills. The first – $748 billion bill – covers another round of the Paycheck Protection Program, unemployment benefits, more money for schools, vaccine distribution and other areas widely agreed upon by both parties. The second part – $160 billion – for state and local funding and liability protections for businesses – are included as their own bill. These are the two provisions that both parties have yet to agree to during negotiations. Splitting these provisions allows congress to vote on the controversial provisions separately from the provisions that have broader bipartisan support.
    • The bill includes $6 billion in funding to help states distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
    • It would extend federal unemployment benefits and add $300 to weekly unemployment checks issued by states. It extends a temporary moratorium on evicting renters.
    • It does not include another round of $1,200 payments to taxpayers who earn below a certain income threshold.
  • During a Senate hearing, FedEx and United Parcel Service expressed confidence that they can handle the logistics for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Economy, Vaccine, Testing and Treatment

  • On Friday, December 11, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. This is the first vaccine the FDA approved for COVID-19. It is approved for people over the age of 16.
  • Here is a reminder about how the new mRNA vaccine technology works.
  • The FDA is clarifying that the vaccine does not pose an allergy risk for patients unless they have an allergy to the specific components of the vaccine.
  • During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), Medicare will cover and pay for the administration of the vaccine (when furnished consistent with the EUA). CMS provided updated payment and HCPCS Level I CPT code structure for specific COVID-19 vaccine information. The guidelines specify to only bill for the vaccine administration codes when you submit claims to Medicare; don’t include the vaccine product codes when vaccines are free.
  • The FDA is expected to approve Moderna’s vaccine candidate as early as the end of this week. The federal government outlined its plan for how it will distribute Moderna’s vaccine once it is approved.
  • General Gus Perna, from Operation Warp Speed, published an Op-Ed outlining the vaccine distribution process.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a new $250 million ad campaign to boost public confidence in the vaccine. Public health officials such as the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci will be the face of the “Tell Me More” campaign.
  • Researchers have identified five genes that may be associated with severe COVID-19 symptoms. Identifying these genes could help researchers target new treatments.
  • CMS’s new COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment infographic clarifies coverage, including cost-sharing, & expected payment to providers for the products & treatment administration for Medicare, Medicaid, & the ACA marketplace plans.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updates

  • CDC updated information:
  • The CDC says to stop the spread of COVID-19 and move toward greater health equity, we must work together to ensure resources are available to maintain and manage physical and mental health, including easy access to information, affordable testing, and medical and mental health care.