Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Pennsylvania Orders Vaccine Providers to Step Up for Schools

A new order, from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, effective Aug.16, requires COVID-19 vaccine providers to support efforts to vaccinate school educators, staff and students. The order supplements the Updated Order of the Acting Secretary of Health Directing Vaccine Providers’ Administration of COVID-19 Vaccines, dated July 26, 2021. It requires that when requested by an institution of higher education (IHI) or a school entity (SE), that vaccine providers will make every effort to coordinate a vaccine clinic for the employees, contractors, volunteers, students, or students’ families of the IHE or School Entity. Vaccine clinics may be held either at the IHE or SE or in any form or location agreed upon by the vaccine provider and education provider.

ERS: Rural Poverty Has Distinct Regional and Racial Patterns

A study from the Economic Research Service (ERS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that, out of 310 counties with high and persistent poverty in 2019, 86 percent were rural.  Nearly half of rural residents who identify as Black or African American and American Indian or Alaska Native lived in these persistent poverty counties; by comparison, 20 percent of poor Hispanics and 12 percent of rural non-Hispanic Whites resided in those counties.

Vaccines for Staff at Federally Funded Nursing Homes Will be Required

From Politico

It’s the first time the White House has used the threat of holding back federal funding to boost vaccination rates.

President Joe Biden announced a plan to require Covid-19 vaccinations for staff in federally funded nursing homes — and withhold money for facilities that don’t comply with the policy.

It’s the first time the White House has used the threat of holding back federal funding to boost vaccination rates and will impact roughly 15,000 nursing homes employing 1.3 million people. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will issue an emergency regulation in September, making staff vaccination a condition of funding.

While Biden officials for months have encouraged vaccinations and backed states’ various incentives for shot recipients, the coming mandate is a significant pivot toward penalizing facilities without requirements.

“More than 130,000 residents of nursing homes have sadly, sadly, over the period of this virus, passed away. At the same time, vaccination rates among nursing home staff significantly trail the rest of the country,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “With this announcement, I’m using the power of the federal government as a payer of health care costs to make sure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors. These steps are all about keeping people safe and out of harm’s way.”

The president added that studies indicate high vaccination rates among nursing home staff are associated with 30 percent fewer Covid-19 cases among long-term care patients.

The administration floated a vaccine order earlier this month, earning swift criticism from Republicans and industry groups who warned they would oppose the plan.

Biden unveiled the order in remarks on the need for Covid-19 boosters in the broader population amid the ongoing surge fueled by the Delta variant, which now accounts for nearly every new Covid-19 case in the country. In his remarks, Biden also encouraged masking requirements at schools to keep children safe and backed broader vaccine mandates in the workplace.

The health department would still need to develop and finalize the new regulations slated for next month. Just 60 percent of nursing home staff are vaccinated against Covid-19 currently, according to the agency. Those staff serve about 1.6 million nursing home residents, many of the people most vulnerable to severe Covid-19 and the impact of emerging variants.

New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released on Wednesday showed a significant drop in vaccine effectiveness among nursing home residents in particular, compounding concerns that the most vulnerable could remain at heightened risk as long as the virus is circulating around them.

The White House noted in a fact sheet that several states have already instituted vaccine requirements for nursing home staff “and this action will ensure consistent and equitable standards across the country.”

Addressing Rates of HPV-Associated Oropharyngeal Cancer

The Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice Initiative (OHNEP) recently published “Making the Case for Interprofessional Education and Practice Collaboration to Address Rising Rates of Human Papillomavirus (HPV)-Associated Oropharyngeal Cancers” in the American Dental Education Association’s Journal of Dental Education. The article describes the current state of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers in the United States and underscores the need for interprofessional management of patients. The article further emphasizes the importance of the HPV vaccine as the only proven HPV-associated cancer prevention method with the greatest potential to reduce HPV-associated cancers.

Click here to read the article.

COVID-19 Vaccines Additional Doses: Codes & Payment

The FDA amended the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for both the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to allow for an additional dose in certain immunocompromised people.

Effective August 12, 2021, CMS will pay to administer additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines consistent with the FDA EUAs, using CPT code 0003A for the Pfizer vaccine and CPT code 0013A for the Moderna vaccine. We’ll pay the same amount to administer this additional dose as we did for other doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (approximately $40 each).

We’ll hold and then process all claims with these codes after we complete claims system updates (no later than August 27).

Learn more about Medicare COVID-19 vaccine:

Pennsylvania Governor Renews Opioid Disaster Declaration, But…

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced he signed the 15th renewal of his January 2018 opioid disaster declaration, but this time around the declaration isn’t for 90 days and any future extensions will require legislative approval. The Pennsylvania General Assembly’s majority Republican leaders last week sent a letter to Gov. Wolf indicating the General Assembly will not act to extend Wolf’s recently renewed opioid disaster declaration. The letter asked the Governor to send the legislature recommendations for how to address the opioid epidemic without the use of an emergency declaration, which gives governors broad executive powers to issue executive orders with the force of law.

Pennsylvania Implementing “Vaccine or Test” Requirement

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s Administration has given some state employees the choice of being vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly, calling it the “vaccine or test” requirement. If the covered individuals are not fully vaccinated by Sept. 7, 2021, they will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. In addition, all new external hires for the facilities covered by the policy must be vaccinated before commencing employment, starting Sept. 7. According to the administration, the policy will affect approximately 25,000 employees working in 24-hour-operated state facilities, which include state hospitals, state homes for people with intellectual disabilities, veterans’ homes, state correctional facilities and community health centers (NOTE: this is NOT referencing FQHCs—this is what the state department of health uses to refer to their network of public health nurses).

Final Recommendation Statement: Screening for Gestational Diabetes

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released a final recommendation statement on screening for gestational diabetes. The Task Force recommends that clinicians screen all pregnant people at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy. More research is needed on screening for gestational diabetes before 24 weeks.

View the recommendation, the evidence on which it is based, and a summary for clinicians.

CDC Strengthens COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendation for Pregnant Women

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now officially recommended that people who are pregnant be vaccinated against COVID-19. This updates and strengthens their previous guidance that stated they were eligible and just suggested a conversation with their provider. Their statement reads: “COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people aged 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future.”