ACP Offers Recommendations for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, Mask Mandates

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Recent executive orders signed by President Biden align with recommendations put forth in ACP policy statements

Feb. 5, 2021 (ACP) – The American College of Physicians is calling for recommendations that are in line with recent executive orders signed by President Biden, including mask-wearing in community settings, wider and more equitable vaccine distribution and adequate reimbursement for vaccines to help end the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In recent policy statements, ACP outlined recommendations to help extinguish the public health emergency, including doubling down on mask mandates on top of other preventive measures such as social distancing and regular handwashing.

“When you have such a highly infectious respiratory disease that is spread by droplets in the air, we know that wearing a mask makes a significant impact on the number of particles in the air and spread within the community,” said ACP President Dr. Jacqueline W. Fincher.

This is why ACP is calling for surgical or cloth masks in community settings – which dovetails with the Biden administration's recent executive order requiring masks on planes, buses and trains and at airports. ACP has also called on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue mask guidance for high-risk workplaces. Moreover, ACP favors the creation of new federal grants to incentivize states to implement mask requirements. Public education campaigns to encourage individuals to wear masks as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy are also needed until sufficient population immunity is achieved via vaccination, ACP stated.

When it comes to vaccine distribution, a national strategy is critically important, Fincher said. “You can't just send vaccines to each state's largest airports and say, ‘Go to it,’” she said, adding that states need help implementing their distribution plans and need funding for personal protective equipment.

So far, ACP is encouraged that many of the initial of decisions made by the Biden administration are consistent with ACP's policies on the wearing of masks, addressing disparities and inequities in care, and vaccine distribution and prioritization.

It needs to be all hands on deck now, Fincher said. All appropriately trained, state-licensed clinicians should be administering COVID-19 vaccines, and there should be a national public education campaign about why and how to get vaccinated, she added.

To help get more people vaccinated safely, ACP is also asking federal public health agencies, vaccine manufacturers, state and local health departments and other stakeholders to widely distribute vaccine-related educational materials, quality protocols, storage and handling information, documentation and other requirements to all vaccinators.

Keeping track of vaccinations is also part of a comprehensive strategy. Retail health clinics providing vaccines must coordinate with a patient's primary care team. ACP also supports funding for a coordinated effort to improve electronic exchange of public health data for public health registries.

Insurers should be required to provide adequate reimbursement for all vaccines, and these payers need to inform care teams of billing, coding and other information necessary to obtain prompt reimbursement for administering the vaccine.

Ethical vaccine distribution is critical. ACP supports the phased allocation of vaccines recommended in the October 2020 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. “We need to get the vaccines into the arms of the most vulnerable patients who are most likely to die or have severe consequences if they don't get the vaccine quickly,” Fincher said. The most vulnerable patients include the elderly and minority racial and ethnic groups. “States should know three weeks in advance what is coming so they can schedule people and prioritize and allocate these vaccines in the most equitable way,” Fincher said.

More Information

The “ACP Policy Statement on Wearing Masks in Community Settings,”“ACP Policy Statement on the Provision, Distribution, and Payment of COVID-19 Vaccines,” and “American College of Physicians (ACP) Policy Statement on the Ethical Allocation of Vaccines During Pandemics Including COVID-19” are available on the ACP website.

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