12/22/20 A message from NCMS: Sticking With the COVID-19 Vaccine Plan

December 22, 2020

The NCMS has been in contact with the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) on behalf of members who contacted us regarding access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Some of these members have been notified they are eligible to be vaccinated in the first round of COVID-19 immunizations but are having difficulty getting the vaccination. Some believe they qualify as front-line outpatient clinicians but have not received proper clearance to be immunized. Here is what we can advise you:

• The NCMS cannot register or authorize anyone to get the vaccine. That authority lies with the hospitals/health systems and/or your local county health department. Please contact the health system you are associated with if you are on the medical staff at the hospital or an employed physician or PA with that system.

• If you are not affiliated with a health system, but feel you qualify under phase 1A, please reach out to your local health department.

• We have encouraged NCDHHS to clarify the guidelines outlined in the vaccination plan and to ensure health systems and health departments are sticking with that plan. Here is the graphic showing who is eligible to receive the vaccine at each phase.

• Keep in mind that supplies of the vaccine are limited at this point, so NCDHHS is urging patience as shipments arrive and they are distributed. This week, the state expects to receive 175,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday. Between 70,000 and 80,000 of those will go to local health departments and the 63 hospitals that did not receive any of the Pfizer vaccine last week, according to NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH.

• As outlined on NCDHHS’ COVID-19 vaccine website, outpatient providers who have an increased risk of exposure beyond that of a typical general outpatient setting could be included in the first phase (1A). This could include outpatient providers who are focused on COVID patient evaluation, respiratory care such as respiratory diagnostic testing centers, members of a dedicated respiratory care team, or frequently involved in COVID testing sites.

According to NCDHHS, Health care employers (e.g., health systems, medical practices, hospice providers, EMS) should:
• Determine who meets the criteria of being high risk for exposure to COVID-19 as defined above because they interact and care for patients with COVID-19.
• Work with local hospitals or local health departments to coordinate access to vaccination.

NCDHHS also states that “if a hospital is providing hospital-based outpatient/primary care, they should do the same for outpatient and community providers to provide equitable access to vaccine. They also should ensure that they are including the entire care team, not just the physicians.”

For more information visit the NCDHHS COVID-19 vaccine webpage here.