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Favoritism some vaccine providers give to their customers must end, La. health officials warn

Jefferson County is still trying to get frontline healthcare workers vaccinated. Some are...
Jefferson County is still trying to get frontline healthcare workers vaccinated. Some are changing their minds and now want one. This could continue to slow things down with getting more shots into arms.(WBRC)
Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 1:58 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Health officials in Louisiana warned healthcare providers not to prioritize their own patients when distributing vaccines.

Dr. Joe Kanter with the state’s health department said in a memo sent to providers Tuesday that preferential access to vaccinations must “immediately cease,” under threat of “adverse action.”

Health department spokesperson Aly Neel told the Associated Press financial penalties, limits on future vaccine allocations, and legal action are among the potential penalties distributors could face.

Included with the memo were the following guidelines that make clear eligibility requirements, the emergency distribution process for vaccines set to expire, and mandatory vaccine reporting guidelines. Read below:

Current Eligibility Groups. The following are the people and providers who are eligible for the vaccine under Phase 1b Tier 1.

Age Eligibility

  • Persons ages 70 years or older.

Patient Status Eligibility

  • Home care patients and their providers. This includes older and younger people with disabilities over the age 16 who receive community or home-based care and their providers, as well as clients of home health agencies.
  • Dialysis patients and providers.

Provider Group Eligibility

  • Ambulatory care providers and their staff. This includes members of coroner’s, autopsy, or mortuary teams who have direct contact with corpses.
  • Urgent care clinic providers and their staff.
  • School Nurses and School Based Health Center staff.
  • Community clinic providers and staff. This includes staff of clinics designated as Federally Qualified Health Center and Rural Health Clinics.
  • Staff of home health agencies.
  • Staff providing community and home-based care to older adults and people with disabilities. This includes staff employed by home care agencies as well as staff who are hired directly by the person with a disability.
  • Behavioral health providers and staff.
  • Dental providers and staff. This includes all oral health providers.
  • Students, residents, faculty and staff of schools of allied health.

2. Vaccine must be made available to all people in Phase 1b Tier 1

Vaccine providers cannot establish and prioritize subgroups within the nine populations listed above. As an example, when offering the vaccine or setting appointments, providers cannot limit vaccination to their existing patients (please see attached letter) nor can they offer vaccine to some eligible subgroups but not others. LDH encourages and expects a fair and equitable process that does not advantage or disadvantage any one group or classification of patient/recipient over another.

3. Individual/Provider Identification

Vaccine providers must make a reasonable effort to verify the age, patient status or provider status of anyone seeking an appointment for a vaccine. Providers should alert the person in advance of their appointment as to acceptable means of identification. Acceptable IDs:

  • Age: State-issued driver’s license, passport, other government-issued identification card that includes date of birth. A person 70 years of age is eligible. Anyone who has not reached their 70th birthday on the day of their appointment is NOT eligible. If identification is not available an individual may self-attest to their age.
  • Patient Status: A patient must show proof they are receiving home-based care or receive regular dialysis care. The State has provided people with disabilities a qualification letter from the State Health Officer. Other forms of verification may be acceptable as well, such as the person’s Plan of Care for community and home-based services.
  • Employment: Proof of employment such as Employee ID or name tag, paystub, letter from employer, uniform, parking pass or any other ID acceptable to the vaccine provider.

4. Second Dose Administration

All vaccine providers who administer the vaccine will be automatically scheduled to receive a shipment of an equal number of second doses. These are to be scheduled to arrive +/- 21 or 28 days (vaccine specific) after the arrival of the initial doses. The second dose shipment will be of the same vial count as the first dose shipment.

For example, if the provider received 20 vials for first dose, they will receive 20 vials for second doses. If a provider is able to extract extra doses from a vial, it is the responsibility of the provider to extract sufficient doses from future shipments.

It is the responsibility of each provider site to use the initial doses in a responsible manner in order to ensure that the second equal shipment of vaccine will offer enough doses for every person who was administered a first dose. At this time and until further production and supply chain predictability is realized it is not prudent for a provider to use any of their “second dose shipments” to provide first doses to additional patients/recipients.

5. Second Dose Appointments

It is the responsibility of the provider to alert every person who receives an initial dose as to the day, time and location for getting the second dose of the vaccine. Providers should schedule people for their second doses before the person exits the vaccination site and/or provide the person with an appointment reminder card or a secure electronic reminder notice.

6. LINKS Reporting

It is the responsibly of each vaccination site to enter all vaccinations into the LINKS system. All vaccines that are administered must be entered in the LINKS system no later than 24 hours after the administration. It is the expectation of LDH that providers will accurately enter the self-identified race of patients/recipients into LINKS; routinely selecting “other” as a default in the race field is not acceptable and will hinder the State’s ability to understand and address inequities in vaccine distribution.

7. Preventing Vaccine Loss

Minimizing vaccine loss/waste is a top priority for the state. In circumstances when vaccine is in eminent risk of expiring (within 6 hours) every effort should be made to find additional individuals in the current eligibility phase/tier to receive vaccine. If unable to do so, it is acceptable to vaccinate individuals outside of the current eligibility phase/tier as a means of not wasting vaccine. Vaccine providers must enact protocols to avoid vaccine loss/waste. It should be noted LDH provides regular updates to the public on vaccine loss/waste.

8. Specific Vaccine Storage Instructions for Moderna vaccine delivered from Morris & Dickson

For vaccine providers that receive Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine from Morris & Dickson, remember:

  • Product will arrive in a REFRIGERATED COOLER and may appear to be frozen.
  • Product must be placed in a Refrigerator upon arrival.
  • Product must NOT be put in a Freezer.
  • Vaccines need to be administered within 29 Days of Receiving Delivery.

9. Prohibition against patient/non-patient discrimination in use of OWS COVID-19 vaccine doses

Please see the attached signed memorandum discussing the prohibition against the practice of discriminating on the basis of status as a “known” or “existing” patient, or by any other means, for the purposes of vaccine administration.

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