President Biden Announces Updated COVID-19 Guidelines & Initiatives

As the spring season rolls around, the Biden administration has been busy administering updated guidelines regarding COVID-19 accessibility, eligibility, and timelines. Below we have outlined the administration’s most recent announcements, as well as relaxed restrictions and an update on clinical trials surrounding vaccination of children under age 18.

Vaccine Eligibility

On March 11, 2021, President Biden directed states to make all adults, ages 18 and older, eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, 2021. The directive came during the President’s first prime-time address, following his signature on a $1.9 trillion relief bill, known as the American Rescue Plan.

Two months sooner than original estimates, the President’s announcement aligns with his latest goal of allowing safe, in-person celebrations on the Fourth of July. Additionally, President Biden announced a future website, scheduled to launch in May of this year, that will assist individuals with locating nearby vaccination sites. Keep in mind, vaccine distribution and availability may differ depending on where you are located. Therefore, you should continue to monitor updates from your local officials for vaccine availability and timelines.

Vaccine Availability

To meet the ongoing demand of individuals who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, President Biden is directing the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

This request follows the administration’s move to invoke the Defense Production Act to get two Merck facilities up to the standards necessary to safely manufacture the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The pharmaceutical company is aware that it may take months to fully equip these manufacturing plants. In response, the company and its contract manufacturers are working hard to put full-time technicians in place to speed up the process.

“I am doing this because in this wartime effort, we need maximum flexibility. There’s always a chance that we’ll encounter unexpected challenges or there will be a new need for vaccine effort. A lot can happen, a lot can change, and we need to be prepared.”

President Joe Biden

Expecting production to begin later this year, the Biden administration and Johnson & Johnson plan to negotiate timelines and availability of these additional vaccines.

Moderna Expands COVID-19 Vaccine for Children

Expected to enroll 6,750 healthy children in the U.S and Canada, Moderna has announced the company will begin testing its COVID-19 vaccine in children under twelve years old, including babies as young as six months.

The study is broken up into two parts, where children will receive two shots, 28 days apart. In the first, children between ages two and 12 may receive two doses of 50 or 100 micrograms each. Those under two years old may receive two shots of 25, 50 or 100 micrograms. Within each group, the first children vaccinated will receive the lowest doses and will be closely monitored for side effects before later participants are given higher doses.

After interim analysis is conducted, researchers can determine which dose is the safest and most likely to effectively protect each specific age group. In a separate study, Moderna is testing its vaccine in 3,000 children ages 12 to 17, and may have results for that age group by summer.  The decision comes as several parents express the need for protecting their children, and that vaccinating children may help produce the herd immunity considered crucial to putting a stop to the current pandemic.

Nursing Home Restrictions

On March 10, 2021, the Biden administration released updated guidelines for nursing home visits. This is the first time guidance has been updated since September of 2020, which was when all visitation was discouraged.

Formulated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following is explained in the recent guidance:

  • Visitation can be conducted through different means based on a facility’s structure and residents’ needs, such as in resident rooms, dedicated visitation spaces, outdoors, and for compassionate care situations.
  • Visitation should be person-centered, considering the resident’s physical, mental and psychological well-being, and support of quality of life.
  • Nursing homes should enable visits to be conducted with an adequate degree of privacy.
  • Visitors who are unable to adhere to the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention, should not be permitted to visit or should be asked to leave.

This new nonbinding guidance comes with suggested “responsible indoor visitation” parameters, such as limiting visits if parties have COVID-19 or are in quarantine. Visitation is also discouraged in counties where COVID-19 positivity rates remain high. Individuals are encouraged to contact the nursing home prior to visiting to ensure visitation compliance is adhered to.

As vaccine production and distribution rates increase, trust the Creative Benefits, Inc. team to provide pertinent updates. In the meantime, review the CDC’s guidelines for who should receive vaccination priority and continue to follow their recommendations to keep yourself and those around you safe.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.