How COVID-19 vaccine options are expanding with another EUA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. for use in people 18 or older. The vaccine joins Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, which earned FDA authorization last week.

Both vaccines use the messenger RNA technology, consist of two separate doses per patient, and have shown about 95% efficacy in protecting against COVID-19, compared with placebo, in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants.

Moderna has said it plans to ship 20 million U.S. doses in December, another 80 million by March 2021, and an additional 100 million by June 2021.

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The AMA’s top 10 stories of 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a toll on physicians battling to save lives that has been unlike any other in living memory. For months, the AMA has advocated fiercely to get doctors the personal protective equipment (PPE) they deserve, and the financial support they need to survive the pandemic’s economic strain.

Physician readers, awakened to the new demands of practicing and serving patients amid the novel coronavirus, have frequently turned to the AMA as a powerful ally for insightful, timely news coverage on top-of-mind issues such as patient questions on mask-wearing and how to reopen practice safely. That coverage includes an outstanding new offering in 2020, the “AMA COVID-19 Update” daily video series.

Here are the AMA’s top 10 stories of the year.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Some other recent articles:

Highlights from the November 2020 AMA Special Meeting

Catch up with the news and key moments from the November 2020 AMA Special Meeting, a virtual gathering of the AMA House of Delegates that ran Nov. 13–17. For a briefer rundown, check out this list of our top 10 stories from the Special Meeting.

My other stories from the meeting:

Bill puts 2-year freeze on Medicare services set for 2021 pay cuts

A coalition of organizations representing physicians and allied health professionals, including the AMA, sent a letter to congressional leadership expressing support for H.R. 8702, the “Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020.” The bill was introduced by Reps. Ami Bera, MD, a California Democrat, and Larry Bucshon, MD, a Republican from Indiana.

H.R. 8702 would effectively freeze payments at 2020 rates for services scheduled to be cut in 2021 for a period of two years, while allowing the planned E/M payment increases to take place as scheduled. It would also avert steep payment cuts for hospital, nursing home and critical care visits. At the end of the two-year reprieve, the full budget-neutrality adjustment would take effect.

“This critical legislation recognizes the importance of allowing significant scheduled pay increases to primary care and others who primarily provide E/M services to take effect while also avoiding the devastating corresponding cuts for physician and nonphysician providers that will occur because of Medicare’s budget-neutrality requirements,” says the letter from the AMA and more than 70 other signatories.

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CMS, insurers should pay doctors for coronavirus protocols and PPE

The AMA and 127 other state medical associations and national medical specialty societies that represent hundreds of thousands of U.S. doctors are urging payers to “immediately implement and pay for Current Procedural Terminology code 99072 to compensate physician practices for the additional supplies and new staff activities required to provide safe patient care” during the COVID-19 public health emergency without patient cost-sharing.

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New information-blocking rules: What doctors should know

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is extending compliance dates for a complex federal regulation aimed at ending information-blocking practices that impede the secure exchange and use of electronic health information by patients, doctors and health care organizations.

The HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) says the final rule, implemented under the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act), now has an “applicability date” of April 5, 2021. On and after that date, all “actors”—which includes health information networks and exchanges, EHR vendors and health care providers—“will be subject to information blocking.”

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CPT codes for new coronavirus vaccines: What you need to know

The AMA has published an update to the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) code set that includes new vaccine-specific codes to report immunizations for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

Working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CPT Editorial Panel has approved a unique CPT code for each of two coronavirus vaccines as well as administration codes unique to each such vaccine.

The new CPT codes clinically distinguish each coronavirus vaccine for better tracking, reporting and analysis that supports data-driven planning and allocation. The CPT codes are available prior to the public availability of the vaccines to facilitate the updating of health care electronic systems across the U.S.

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Now’s no time to back off training that helps address racism

Physicians, nurses and hospital leaders are urging the Trump administration to rescind an executive order prohibiting federal agencies from conducting and funding trainings that promote racial reconciliation. In a letter to President Trump, the AMA, American Nurses Association (ANA) and American Hospital Association (AHA) said the executive order is “counterproductive to addressing racism” and would “stifle attempts at open, honest discussion of these issues in the public and private sectors.”

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Physicians decry apparel maker’s anti-female DO misfire

The AMA and others are decrying the sexist and anti-osteopathic physician implications of a medical apparel supplier’s internet catalog listing.

The Los Angeles-based company Figs sells upscale scrubs, medical uniforms and other apparel for physicians and other health professionals. A catalog listing first highlighted by New York physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Tayyaba Ahmed, DO, showed a woman in pink scrubs holding a copy of Medical Terminology for Dummies upside down, a perplexed look on her face. Near the end of the brief video, the camera zooms in on the model’s identification badge to show she’s a doctor of osteopathy (DO).

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Flu vaccination: 6 tips to win over the undecideds

With each day seeing tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases in the U.S., the impending flu season is raising fears of a “twindemic” of COVID-19 and influenza that could sicken tens of millions of Americans and further strain the nation’s health system resources.

This raises anew the critical role that physicians play in doing whatever they can to ensure that all patients 6 months and older get the influenza vaccine. One key area for focus this year are the patients who haven’t made up their minds about whether to get the flu shot.

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Federal legislation’s message to doctors: It’s OK to ask for help

Bipartisan congressional legislation named after a New York City emergency physician who died of suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic will help bolster the mental health infrastructure needed to support doctors and other health professionals who have worked tirelessly to save lives from the deadly respiratory illness caused by SARS-CoV-2.

My latest for the AMA, along with this story on a $20 billion round of CARES Act physician relief.

Medical consensus: Follow evidence on coronavirus vaccine review

The AMA and 77 other prominent national organizations representing patients, physicians, researchers and others that constitute a broad consensus of health care stakeholders are urging federal health agencies to let scientific evidence drive their decision-making on vaccines to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“By clearly explaining the processes in place to ensure scientific rigor, federal agencies and government leaders will build the confidence and public trust necessary for America to meet this challenge,” says the letter, published this week in the Washington, D.C., edition of The Wall Street Journal.

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