December 9, 2022, 2:09 p.m. News Staff — Although “Ask and you shall receive” isn’t always a winning strategy, sometimes it pays off for Academy members in a big way.
This is one of those times.
According to a recent announcement from HHS’ Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, jurisdictional and federal entity administration partners can now order limited amounts of Pfizer-BioNTech’s updated COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 12 years and older in single-dose vials. The agency’s action, described on the AAFP's regularly updated COVID-19 Vaccine webpage, is right in line with AAFP advocacy focused on expanding vaccine availability, including a letter sent to the White House last year that called on the administration to “support primary care physicians and practices in their ongoing efforts to protect their patients and communities from COVID-19.”
The Academy noted in its letter that federal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines focused heavily on mass vaccination sites and retail pharmacies initially, and it was only later that community health centers and some primary care practices were added to the mix.
“The focus on larger facilities has made it challenging for many primary care practices to obtain vaccine supplies, requiring that they travel long distances and jump through additional administrative hoops,” the AAFP stated in the Sept. 13, 2021, letter signed by (then) Board Chair Gary LeRoy, M.D., of Dayton, Ohio.
To ensure that family physicians and other primary care clinicians who want to provide COVID-19 vaccination have ready access to vaccine supplies, the Academy called on the administration to modify its national distribution methodology to prioritize independent primary care practices.
Hoping to sidestep a potential second hurdle to offering COVID-19 vaccination in primary care practices — excessive vaccine wastage linked to large, multidose vial sizes — the AAFP also recommended at the time that the administration “encourage the manufacture of smaller vials and facilitate public-private partnerships to reduce wastage.”
Administration officials obviously took that suggestion to heart, with HHS revealing in late June that of an initial 105 million adult and pediatric doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine it had secured for its fall vaccination campaign, a portion of the adult doses would be provided as single-dose vials.
Fast forward to HHS’ most recent announcement, which states: “This limited introduction of single-dose vials is designed to allow partners to offer the updated COVID-19 vaccines in more places, such as physicians’ offices or mobile clinics that may not have the capacity or demand to keep multidose vials of COVID-19 vaccine on hand.”
In addition to expanding the number of community-based locations that offer the updated vaccine, the agency also seeks to ensure it is more equitably distributed, encouraging vaccination partners “to consider equity and consult resources, such as national data published by CDC on updated vaccine uptake by race and ethnicity.”
Single-dose vials will be available in a minimum quantity of 50 doses per order, and individual orders will be limited to no more than 150 single-dose vials. All orders will be packaged as 10 single-dose vials per carton.
In a second piece of good news, HHS has released a comprehensive new resource that walks patients through the process of developing their personal COVID-19 plan.
Step one is talking with their family physician or other health care professional to map out their risk for severe disease should they be infected with COVID-19. Those at increased risk include older adults, individuals who have not been vaccinated against the disease, and people with medical conditions such as chronic lung disease, heart disease or a weakened immune system.
Other topics addressed in the patient resource include information about testing, possible treatments, preventive measures and symptom recognition. Patients are encouraged to record their date of exposure and symptom onset, and the resource recommends appropriate follow-up actions based on that information. The form also lists specific issues patients should consider if they become ill, such as who will care for other family members if they need to isolate, and whether they have adequate supplies of food and prescription or OTC medications to last throughout a protracted stay at home.
Finally, the planning resource provides a worksheet where patients can record helpful notes, such as their clinical history and a listing of their medications, as well as contact information for health care professionals and family members.
As a reminder, the AAFP has created numerous resources to help family physicians and their patients prepare for and deal with COVID-19 and/or seasonal influenza, including two recently posted tools that focus specifically on older patients. “COVID-19 and Influenza (Flu) Medical History Form: Adults 65 Years and Older” makes it easy for these patients to record their most recent influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations, test results, symptoms, complications and treatments in one central location, and “Guide to Creating a COVID-19 and Influenza (Flu) Action Plan: Adults 65 Years and Older” helps seniors and their family members make decisions about and prepare for protracted illness and unexpected complications that can result from COVID-19 or influenza.