The delta variant of COVID-19 has created crises in many parts of the nation and caused Michigan’s case numbers to climb, with nearly 930,000 confirmed cases that have led to over 20,000 deaths as of Aug. 20. Hospitalizations due to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Aug. 20 totaled 912 adults and eight children. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data tracker indicated 65% of Michigan residents ages 16 and above had received at least one dose of vaccine as of Aug. 18.
The MHA continues to keep members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.
Federal Agencies Announce Plans for Third and Booster Shots
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced it recommends a third dose of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) for individuals with moderately to severely compromised immune systems. At this time, a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not been recommended. The CDC advises that people talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.
In addition, the Biden administration plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots starting Sept. 20 to all Americans ages 18 and older who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. This is due to growing evidence that a third dose of the vaccine will be needed to maintain strong immunity, which experts have long expected would be necessary. The recommendation will include waiting until eight months after becoming fully vaccinated to receive a booster, meaning healthcare workers and nursing home residents would likely be first in line.
The administration shared that this booster dose policy depends on authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a review by the CDC’s vaccine advisory committee. Administration officials said they anticipate also offering booster shots to people who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine but are waiting for further data before officially making that recommendation. The recommendations are based on several studies showing effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines may decline by as much as 30% around the eight-month mark.
There is an important nuance in the language used to describe these additional doses: the “third dose” is used to describe the dose given to immunocompromised individuals, while a “booster” is used to describe the additional dose given to all other recipients.
Vaccines administered by Michigan providers have increased recently to an average of 39,000 first doses per week, rising from averages in the 20,000s in June and early July. Members with questions may contact Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.
MDHHS Launches Vaccination Record Website for Public
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has launched the Michigan Immunization Portal, a website that allows any individual 18 or older who has been immunized in the state of Michigan to check and obtain a copy of their vaccination record online. Once an individual provides the necessary information, their immunization record will be pulled from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry and provided to them. This function may be especially useful for providers who are contacted by individuals who have misplaced their COVID-19 vaccination cards. Members may promote this tool to their patients and the public as appropriate. Questions may be directed to Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.
Changes Coming to Payer Policies for COVID-19 Coverage
Health insurers in Michigan have begun announcing that, in the coming months, they will no longer cover the full cost of COVID-19 treatments. Beneficiaries of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, for example, will resume taking responsibility for their cost sharing for any necessary COVID-19 care after Sept. 30, 2021. It should be noted that COVID-19 vaccines will remain available at no cost to patients in the U.S. The MHA will continue to urge the public to take advantage of free and low-cost preventive measures like masks and vaccines to avoid the risk of hospitalization, death and preventable healthcare costs. Members with questions may contact Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.
Additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic is available to members on the MHA Community Site and the MHA COVID-19 webpage. Questions on COVID-19 and infectious disease response strategies may be directed to the MDHHS Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC).