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COVID-19: Home Test to Treat Program, Vaccine Safety Concern

In collaboration with the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched on Jan. 5 a no-cost COVID-19 telehealth program offering at-home rapid tests, virtual appointments, and treatment.

The Biden administration first announced the Home Test to Treat program, which aims to offer services to approximately 100,000 people nationwide in 2023, in September 2022.

“The Home Test to Treat program allows those who are sick an alternative to venturing out for testing or treatment, potentially reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” says Bruce Tromberg, PhD, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the NIH and leader of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Tech program.

The program launches as XBB.1.5, the newest circulating omicron subvariant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, accounts for 43 percent of COVID-19 cases nationwide, as of Jan. 14.

Local and state officials in Berks County, Penn., will pilot the program later in January. Program organizers will gather information from participants to identify best practices and improve the Home Test to Treat model.

CDC and FDA Report Possible COVID-19 Safety Signal

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported on Jan. 13 a possible concern for ischemic strokes in individuals ages 65 and older who received the bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The safety signal was detected through the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), a near real-time surveillance system, which indicated that those 65 and older who have received the updated vaccine may be more likely to have an ischemic stroke in the 21 days following vaccination compared with days 22–42 following vaccination.

However, the totality of the data suggests that it is unlikely that the VSD signal represents a true clinical risk. FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will make further assessments at its Jan. 26 meeting.

The CDC has not changed its recommended COVID-19 vaccination schedule and continues recommending that everyone 6 months of age and older stay up to date with vaccines.

The agency also reiterated that those who receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine are three times less likely to be hospitalized for the virus compared with those who were previously vaccinated but have not yet received the updated vaccine, and 19 times less likely to be hospitalized than those who are unvaccinated.

Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the pandemic.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.


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