What the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency means

The COVID-19 public health emergency, which has given millions of Americans free access to vaccines, tests and treatments, comes to an end today. The statement, from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), comes just days after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19 was no longer a global health emergency.

For more than a year, the pandemic has been on a downward trend, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, WHO director-general, said at a press conference.

Since January 2021, deaths from COVID-19 have decreased by 95% and hospitalizations have decreased by 90%, according to HHS.

Science COVID tests, vaccines and treatments—that’s what’s been able to turn the tide, says Sharon Nachman, MD, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases and professor of pediatrics at Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine in Stony Brook , New York. It’s why COVID is no longer a cataclysmic infection killing people around the world. It is now a manageable, identifiable and treatable respiratory viral disease.

The end of the public health emergency will trigger significant changes in the COVID-19 response that could impact testing and treatment, vaccines, data reporting, health coverage and telehealth.

Read on to find out what to know about the progress of COVID-19 and how to protect yourself from the coronavirus during this new phase of the pandemic.

COVID-19 vaccines will still be free for now

The US government still has stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccines, and everyone, regardless of insurance status, will still be able to access this stockpile at no cost, according to HHS. Even after that supply is depleted, vaccines will still be free for most publicly and privately insured people, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Once federal supplies run out, people who aren’t on Medicaid or who are underinsured will likely face out-of-pocket expenses, similar to cost sharing for other drugs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a non-profit health organization . political organization.

Seniors will continue to have access to free COVID-19 vaccines under Medicare Part B.

Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for COVID-19 vaccines are not affected by the end of the public health emergency, but are linked to a separate emergency declaration known as the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

COVID-19 treatments will still be available

The end of the public health emergency generally won’t affect access to COVID-19 antiviral treatments, such as Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) and Lagevrio (molnupiravir), according to the HHS release.

As with vaccines, once federal supplies of treatments run out, people may face increased out-of-pocket expenses, depending on the drug’s manufacturer’s price and health insurance coverage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CENTER FOR PREVENTION AND DISEASE CONTROL).

People with Medicaid will continue to have access to COVID-19 treatments without cost sharing through September 30, 2024.

Costs of COVID-19 tests will depend on your health coverage

Testing for COVID-19 may no longer be free or covered by insurance, according to the CDC. While the federal government is encouraging insurers to continue covering COVID testing, the end of the health emergency means insurers are no longer required to waive costs or provide free COVID-19 testing.

If your doctor orders or gives you a COVID test, you may be covered (depending on your insurance) but you may have a copay.

People on traditional Medicare will no longer be able to get eight free at-home tests, but will be able to get tested for free during a doctor’s visit (although there may be other costs associated with the appointment), according to the KFF.

Individuals covered through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will continue to have coverage for the free over-the-counter rapid tests until September 30, 2024.

The CDC’s free COVID-19 testing locator can help people find current community and pharmacy partners participating in the Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) program.

Most insurers will continue to cover telehealth

Most private insurers will continue to cover telehealth services, although out-of-pocket costs will depend on your insurance coverage. Legislation passed late last year expands access to telehealth in the Medicare program through the end of 2024.

Providers can also continue to write prescriptions for controlled substances via telehealth for the next six months taking into account public feedback, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Medicaid coverage may end for some

KFF estimates that between 5 million and 14 million people in the United States will lose health coverage as the Medicaid continued enrollment provision expires, which expanded Medicaid eligibility and allowed people to stay enrolled in Medicaid until the end of the year. public health emergency.

As many as 6.8 million people would still be eligible but would have to re-enroll, though timelines and eligibility will vary by state.

Is COVID-19 no longer a threat?

In announcing the end of the COVID-19 emergency phase, WHO Director Dr. Tedros highlighted the risk that COVID-19 still poses. Last week, COVID-19 claimed a life every three minutes, and these are just the deaths we know of, he said at the virtual news conference.

Thousands of people are still being treated in hospitals and intensive care units, with more dealing with lingering symptoms from long-lasting COVID, Tedros said. This virus is here to stay. It’s still killing and it’s still changing. The risk remains that new variants will emerge that will cause new waves of cases.

In the United States, immunity spread through infections and vaccines is currently protecting most people from developing serious illness, even though COVID-19 continues to cause hundreds of deaths every week, according to the CDC.

People are still getting COVID, says Dr. Nachman. But now we have vaccines, we can easily test for COVID, and if you get COVID, we can give you one of many treatments to make you feel better and back to normal life, that’s the big story.

Some people still remain at risk for severe COVID, including elderly individuals or immunocompromised people, Nachman says. If you’re unsure of your level of risk, talk to your doctor, he suggests.

One thing COVID has taught us is that it’s important to take your family’s health seriously. Whether you live with someone who has complicated medical issues or yourself, there are steps you can take to continue reducing your risk, she says.

Take these precautions against COVID-19

Infectious disease experts are still working hard to protect the public from COVID-19. Here’s the latest on how to stay safe:

Vaccinations and boostersThe FDA in April cleared a second booster dose of bivalent omicron-targeted COVID vaccines for adults 65 years of age and older and immunocompromised people to continue providing protection to the most vulnerable people.

Seniors can now receive a second dose of the bivalent booster four months after the first, and immunocompromised people can be boosted after two months, according to the FDA.

The agency also released a simplified bullet list outlining who is eligible to receive the bivalent vaccine and announced that only bivalent vaccines and boosters (and not the original monovalent vaccines) will be licensed for future use.

As with the annual flu shot, the FDA will seek information on which variants and strains of coronavirus are most likely to circulate in the next year, according to the announcement. Once specific strains for COVID-19 vaccines are selected, the agency expects manufacturers to produce updated formulations of the vaccines for availability this fall.

I get flu shots every year because the consequences of the flu are not what I want for myself or my family. COVID will be no different. If you’re serious about protecting yourself and your loved ones, it’s something you’ll do every year, says Nachman.

Vaccination will also help protect you from long-term COVID. We know that the risk of getting long-term COVID is lower in people who have been vaccinated, so getting vaccinated and boosted is the best way to try to reduce the chances of lingering symptoms, Nachman says.

A meta-analysis published in March 2023 in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people vaccinated with two doses had a lower risk of developing long-term COVID than unvaccinated people.

MaskingMasking, especially in crowded indoor environments, is one way to continue to protect yourself and any loved ones at risk, Nachman says.

Testing and treatment If you think you have COVID, get tested, Nachman says. In addition to following CDC guidelines to avoid spreading the virus, talk to your doctor to see if you’re eligible for antiviral treatment, he suggests.

#COVID19 #public #health #emergency #means

Leave a Comment