February 23, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

POMA continues to monitor the rapidly changing information surrounding the spread of COVID-19.

In an effort to provide accurate and helpful information to POMA members, we have gathered some of the resources we are finding to be most useful and accurate at this time. We hope this helps you in staying on top of the latest developments in the spread of the disease and in helping your patients.

Stay safe and healthy!


New Headlines

FDA Authorizes New Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

On February 11, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for a new monoclonal antibody, bebtelovimab, for the treatment of COVID-19.  Bebtelovimab, is for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric COVID-19 patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19.  Bebtelovimab is not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19.  Up until now, sotrovimab was the only available monoclonal antibody that worked against the omicron variant.  Click here to read the full FDA press release.

In January, the FDA halted the use of two other antibody treatments (bamlanivimab and etesevimab, administered together) that have been found to be ineffective against omicron infections.  Click here to read the full FDA press release.

This week, hospitals and pharmacies in Pennsylvania started receiving shipments of bebtelovimab.

Wolf Administration Adds Additional Healthcare Strike Teams and Regional Support Teams

Last week, Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter announced two additional state-directed healthcare strike teams and another long-term care regional support team are providing requested assistance for hospitals and skilled nursing facilities caring for COVID-19 patients.

This week, the strike teams are supporting staff at Geisinger Wyoming Valley and Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest.  The teams are on a two-week deployment and vary in size and scope based on the daily needs of the facilities.  The regional skilled nursing facility support site opened at the Pleasant Valley Manor nursing home in Monroe County.

These teams are separate from the federal strike teams currently deployed to hospitals in Scranton and York, which are both slated to conclude their work in early March.  The support efforts are part of the Wolf Administration's initiative to support Pennsylvania's healthcare staffing shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

PA DDAP Awards $15M in Grant Funds to Substance Use Disorder Treatment Providers for Pandemic Response

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs announced $15 million in grant funding has been awarded to 375 substance use disorder treatment providers across Pennsylvania for "pandemic-related expenses."  DDAP Secretary Jen Smith said, "We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has had negative impacts on the entire drug and alcohol field including individuals struggling with the disease of addiction and those providing life-saving services. This funding will help providers fill in the gaps to ensure that every Pennsylvanian in need of substance use disorder treatment services is able to access safe, high-quality services."

Current state and national data show that drug overdose deaths increased dramatically in recent years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  According to Department of Health data, from 2020 to 2021, Pennsylvania recorded 5,089 drug overdose deaths.  That number is second only to 2017.

CMS Updates

New updates on program guidance and information about CMS's response to COVID-19:

HHS Updates

Below are a list of recent highlights of national Health and Human Services news and announcements:

Pennsylvania's COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Pennsylvania is currently administering the Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine, the Spikevax (Moderna) vaccine and the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine.  Vaccination numbers for Pennsylvania do not include Philadelphia, which is its own jurisdiction, or federal facilities, which are working directly with the federal government.

According to the PA Department of Health, as of February 23rd, 18,578,082 total doses have been administered, including 3,185,254 booster doses since August 13, 2021 and 550,359 pediatric doses (aged 5-11) since November 2, 2021.

There are 7,220,870 fully vaccinated people in Pennsylvania.  According to the CDC, as of February 21st, 76.2% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated.

PA Health Alert Network (PA HAN) - Health Alerts, Advisories and Updates

Previously Published but Relevant Headlines

Become a COVID-19 Vaccine Provider

POMA is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) to spread the word that YOU can become a COVID-19 vaccine provider!

Pennsylvania's Acting Physician General Denise Johnson, MD spoke about the DOH's current vaccine objective, pivoting from larger/mass vaccination sites to community physician practices. Enroll as a provider and administer the vaccine in your office - click here to access the enrollment form.

Read the full message from Dr. Johnson regarding this important initiative and how you can keep your community healthy.

PA DOH Video Resource About COVID Vaccine Safety

The Pennsylvania Department of Health Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Director of the Vaccine Education Center and Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Paul Offit have developed a video resource for Pennsylvanians to answer questions about COVID vaccine safety. The video includes a review of the vaccine approval process through the FDA, including the Emergency Use Authorization. They also discuss information on the increasing scientific data on the safety of vaccines for children and pregnant women and the effectiveness of the vaccine against variants, with a highlighted focus on effectiveness against the delta variant.

Dr. Johnson said "With so much information and misinformation out there, access to reliable and trusted sources can help you make the best decision for you and your family... It's essential that we continue to inform and educate Pennsylvanians about the COVID-19 vaccines, because good information leads to good decisions."

Anyone can access and share this video resource on Facebook or PAcast.

Updated Pennsylvania Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Cases, Graphics, Resources

Briefings and Updates from Pa. Governor Wolf and the Department of Health

Resources from the CDC

The CDC has provided guidance and resources for healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, laboratories, as well as information for schools and childcare, businesses and employers, community and faith-based organizations, and the general public. Visit the CDC COVID-19 webpage for more information.

POMA will continue monitoring COVID-19 and provide updates and recommendations from PA-DOH, the CDC, the WHO and local health agencies. POMA's COVID-19 webpage and social media channels will be updated as information is shared from these organizations.

If you have any comments or questions for POMA, please email us at [email protected]

Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association | 1330 Eisenhower Boulevard, Harrisburg, PA 17111
(717) 939-9318 | www.poma.org