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COVID-19: Virus Transmission; Pfizer Vaccine Authorized for Ages 12–15

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) May 7 updated a science brief with new information about transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

In the update, the agency includes three potential modes of transmission: inhalation, deposition of virus on exposed mucous membranes, and touching mucous membranes with soiled hands. Notably, the brief shows SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted by inhaling the virus farther than six feet from an infectious source. This is more likely to happen in enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation, situations where someone is physically exerting themselves or raising their voice, and instances of prolonged exposure (longer than 15 minutes).

COVID-19 Vaccine Updates

Pfizer and BioNTech announced May 7 they applied for a biologics license application (BLA) with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval of their molecular ribonucleic acid vaccine to prevent COVID-19 in people ages 16 and older.

The companies received approval May 10 to expand the emergency use authorization (EUA) for their COVID-19 vaccine to include individuals ages 12 to 15. In late March, the companies submitted data showing their vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in a trial of 2,300 children ages 12 to 15 in the United States. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet May 12 to discuss and vote on recommending the vaccine in this age group.

FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research will convene a virtual meeting June 10 of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to provide a status update on the agency’s approach to issuing EUA status for COVID-19 vaccines intended for use in individuals ages 12 to 17. The committee will discuss the data needed to support an EUA and BLA for a COVID-19 vaccine intended for use in children younger than 12 years old. The committee will not discuss specific products.

As of May 10, 260 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the United States. CDC now reports vaccine administration data by racial and ethnic demographics, in addition to sex and age.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge on May 5 announced a joint effort to improve access to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccinations among communities assisted by HUD and people experiencing homelessness. The program will use the existing Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program to target 6,000 multifamily housing properties, 6,700 homeless shelters, and approximately 7,500 public housing properties as vaccine distribution locations.

CMS Increases Medicare Payment for Monoclonal Antibody Infusions

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)  increased the Medicare payment rate for administering monoclonal antibodies to treat patients with COVID-19. Effective May 6, the national average payment rate will increase from $310 to $450 when monoclonal antibodies are administered in a physician’s office or health care facility. In addition, the agency will set a higher national payment rate of $750 for antibodies administered in the beneficiary’s home, permanent residence, or temporary lodging.

CMS updated monoclonal antibody treatment toolkits for providers, states, and insurers, as well as coding resources for providers on the COVID-19 Vaccines and Monoclonal Antibodies webpage.

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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