Progress and challenges

Progress and challenges

Six months into my tenure as ACAAI president, I’m pleased to report progress on 2021 priorities.

We’re still dealing with the pandemic on multiple fronts, but thanks to everyone, it looks like we are starting to win. When I became College president last November, Pfizer and Moderna were preparing to apply for emergency use authorizations for their COVID-19 vaccinations. Now we have three approved vaccines. The College took the lead on assessing allergic reactions to the vaccines and sharing this information with the health care community and the public.

The ACAAI COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force came through with guidance on risk of allergic reactions to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine frequently asked questions, reference guides and comparison charts. These resources are updated as new information emerges. The expertise of allergists and immunologists during the pandemic, especially related to reactions to COVID-19 vaccines, cannot be overstated.

Early in the pandemic the College stepped up to provide information and resources pertinent to allergy practices to our members, and we continue this effort with webinars, articles, emails and educational opportunities providing timely information about the pandemic, the disease, its treatment, diagnosis and prevention.

Our Advocacy Council continues to work for practicing allergists and for patients to have access to specialty care. We’ve advocated for continued coverage of telemedicine, made specific recommendations to the “No Surprises Act” and joined other allergy organizations in support of the FASTER Act, which was just signed into law.

One of my goals as president is to work to decrease racial disparities and increase health equity in the treatment of patients with allergies and asthma. We continue to make progress on this front. One place we started was creation of the College’s Racial Disparities and Health Equity Resource Center, supported by Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

I’m also excited about the work of The Allergist’s Foundation, which will soon announce funding recipients of its Community Grant Program designed to fund innovative solutions addressing barriers to asthma and allergy care, particularly in underserved populations. The Foundation has also established an International Outreach Grant for some of my global initiatives.

Through the Diversity Task Force, we’re partnering with academic programs, especially in traditionally Black medical colleges and universities to increase awareness of the allergy/immunology specialty as a career choice.

We’ve created various patient information pieces in Spanish that members can use to better communicate with their Spanish-speaking patients, and we hosted a member webinar in Spanish on allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines. This is a first step in having more robust information for this group of people.

What’s continuing? An outstanding Annual Scientific Meeting this November; practical resources for health care professionals; increasing diversity in our members and our leadership, increased public awareness of our specialty, including thousands of mentions in national media since the beginning of the year; collaboration with lay organizations like the Asthma & Allergy Network; and leadership in advocacy in your communities and in Washington, DC. I am grateful that the College has world-class leadership and expertise to make all of these activities possible, and I thank all of our members and staff for working hard to make these 2021 priorities a reality. I’m looking forward to the next six months!

headshot of Luz Fonacier, MD