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COVID-19: Vaccine Prioritization, Antigen Test Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities (LTCFs) be offered vaccination in the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

The agency defines health care personnel as “paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.” As of Dec. 1, an estimated 245,000 COVID-19 cases and 858 COVID-19 deaths were reported among U.S. health care personnel. Health care personnel whose duties require proximity within six feet of other people should be prioritized, ACIP states.

LTCFs provide medical and personal care to people unable to live independently; residents are at high risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19 due to their age, high rates of underlying medical conditions, and congregate living settings.

The committee held seven public meetings to reach its conclusion. If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes or approves a COVID-19 vaccine, ACIP will quickly meet publicly to review all vaccine data and vote on whether to recommend the vaccine and who should receive it.

CDC Updates Antigen Testing Guidance

In response to FDA authorization of laboratory-based antigen tests, CDC on Dec. 5 removed the word “rapid” from its antigen testing guidance. The agency also updated the guidelines with information about properly processing antigen tests to minimize false positives. Improper specimen collection, such as swabbing the nostril too quickly, time from sample collection to testing, and uncontrolled specimen temperature could negatively affect test results.

The updated guidance includes a new algorithm to determine whether confirmatory testing is required after an antigen test. The algorithm considers presence of symptoms and known contact with an infected person when determining the necessity of a nucleic acid amplification test to confirm infection.

JAMA Study Examines Root Cause of COVID-19 Inequities

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that while Black and Hispanic populations have higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalization and mortality than white populations, they have lower in-hospital case-fatality rates.

The retrospective cohort study evaluated 9,722 patients in the NYU Langone Health System, in New York. Outcomes were compared by race and ethnicity and analyzed by age, sex, body mass index, comorbidity, insurance type, and neighborhood socioeconomic status. The results suggest neighborhood characteristics might explain the disproportionately higher out-of-hospital COVID-19 mortality among Black individuals.

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

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Emily Schweich is a senior communications associate for America's Essential Hospitals.

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