Healey-Driscoll Administration Announces End of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
On March 15, the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced that the state’s COVID-19 public health emergency will end on May 11, 2023, to align with the end of the federal public health emergency. Governor Healey will also file legislation that would extend key flexibilities provided by the public health emergency, particularly around staffing for the healthcare industry and emergency medical services. The Governor also announced that she plans to rescind Executive Order 595 which required all Executive Branch state employees to have received their primary series COVID-19 vaccines.
Last State-Run Free COVID Testing Sites to Close
The state’s last 11 Stop the Spread sites in Everett, Lawrence, Lynn, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, and Worcester are set to close by the end of March. The Stop the Spread program launched in July 2020 and has since provided more than 4.3 million PCR tests to residents across the state. The Department of Public Health acknowledged that large-scale, state-funded PCR testing is no longer the best use of resources due to a drop in demand for the sites. Instead, officials recommend that people continue to use access rapid at-home antigen tests, as well as PCR tests as needed, at retail pharmacies, urgent care facilities, and primary care settings. Additionally, every household is eligible to order four free at-home COVID tests through the federal government.
DPH Offering $75 Gift Cards at Family-Friendly COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics
The Department of Public Health is providing free COVID-19 vaccination clinics. A $75 gift card will be offered to any Massachusetts resident (adult or child) who gets vaccinated (first dose, second dose, or booster) at any of the clinics listed here until March 31, 2023. Additional options are available through the vaxfinder. If your child cannot attend a community clinic, you can request in-home vaccination. Anyone age 6 months and older can get a COVID-19 vaccination or updated booster at these clinics, unless otherwise noted in the clinic schedule. You do not need an appointment, but some clinics may encourage pre-registration. Vaccination is free and you do not need an ID or health insurance.
Who can get a COVID-19 Vaccine?
EVERYONE AGES 6 MONTHS OR OLDER IS ELIGIBLE TO BE VACCINATED AND BOOSTED
How can eligible individuals get the vaccine?
Steps to book an appointment:
- Visit https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/
- Select a location and schedule an appointment online or see walk-in availability.
- Bring your ID and your insurance card to your appointment. (You are not required to have either of these.)
- Fill out the self-attestation form, which will need to be presented at your appointment.
The Massachusetts Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line
All residents may call 2-1-1 or (877) 211-6277 and follow the prompts to reach the Massachusetts Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line in order to schedule an appointment. The Line operates Monday to Thursday, 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM, and Friday to Sunday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, and is available in English, Spanish, and about 100 other languages.
In-Home Vaccination Program
As a reminder, in-home vaccinations and boosters are still available to anyone who has difficulty getting to or using a community vaccination location, including children 6 months to 17 years old.
How to schedule an in-home vaccination:
- By phone: call the In-Home Vaccination Central Intake Line at (833) 983-0485
- Online: schedule an appointment directly on the CDR Health Patient Portal page at patientportalma.com
Where to get a booster: Massachusetts residents can access booster doses, with appointments available now for booking across the Commonwealth. The COVID-19 booster is safe, effective, and free. Individuals do not need an ID or health insurance to access a booster and do not need to show a vaccine card when getting a booster. Additional information on the COVID booster, including FAQs, can be found at mass.gov/COVID19booster.
CDC COVID-19 Self-Testing Guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a webpage with updated information on when and why to use a COVID-19 self-test. They advise self-testing if you have symptoms or had exposure to someone with COVID-19 and suggest self-testing immediately before gathering indoors. Click here to learn more.
NIH Website for Self-Reporting COVID-19 Test Results
Reporting positive or negative test results is now easier through a new website from the National Institutes of Health. MakeMyTestCount.org allows users to anonymously report the results of any brand of at-home Covid-19 test. While taking a rapid COVID-19 test has become commonplace, test results are not often reported. COVID-19 test results provide valuable data that public health departments can use to assess the needs and modify the responses in the local community, the state or the nation.
FDA Allowing Pharmacists to Prescribe COVID Antiviral Treatment Paxlovid
The FDA has revised its Emergency Use Authorization for Paxlovid, allowing pharmacists to prescribe the COVID antiviral treatment under specific limitations. Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are seeking to determine if they are eligible to receive the treatment should bring the following information with them to allow pharmacists to screen for any potential interactions with the medication:
- Electronic or printed health records less than 12 months old, including the most recent reports of laboratory blood work for the pharmacist to review for kidney or liver problems. Pharmacists could also receive this information through a consult with the patient’s health care provider.
- A list of all medications they are taking, including over-the-counter medications so the pharmacist can screen for drugs with potentially serious interactions with Paxlovid.
Paxlovid is authorized for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age or older weighing at least 88 pounds) with a positive antiviral test, who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.
The White House Plans to End COVID Emergency Declarations in May
The White House is planning to end the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency on May 11. The declarations have been extended multiple times since enacted by the Trump administration in 2020. Ending the emergency declaration could have implications for funding for tests and vaccines as well as the impact other pandemic-related policies. Massachusetts law requires health insurers to cover all medically necessary COVID-19 treatment without charging co-pays or deductibles.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has a Frequently Asked Questions site that is continually updated as they receive new questions. Access the FAQs here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccine-frequently-asked-questions. Constituent questions can be submitted to [email protected]