With a recent emergency use authorization (EUA) granted to the first COVID-19 vaccine and another one expected at press time, states and the federal government this week began rolling out the vaccine to health care workers across the country. While health plans, particularly those that serve high-risk individuals such as dual-eligible Medicare-Medicaid beneficiaries, may be ideally situated to coordinate care and update members on vaccination opportunities, there are gaps in the current delivery system that could negatively impact the success of the rollout, one expert warns. And with many older adults not included in the first phase, it may fall to Medicare Advantage plans to ensure that seniors are informed about when and how to access the vaccine.
The FDA on Dec. 11 authorized emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech in individuals age 16 and older. And following an advisory panel’s Dec. 15 confirmation of the efficacy and safety of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, an EUA for that vaccine is imminent. HHS Secretary Alex Azar has said the federal government, which will cover the costs of the vaccine and its administration for Medicare enrollees, is aiming to have 100 million people vaccinated by the first quarter of 2021 with the two recommended doses. Meanwhile, news reports indicate two more vaccines could be authorized by the end of February, including one that would require only one dose.