WisBusiness, WisPolitics Health Care Report August 18

WisBusiness, WisPolitics Health Care Report August 18

— Racine officials will use $600,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to award gift cards to residents who get a COVID-19 vaccine and to those that help get somebody vaccinated.

Unvaccinated city residents that are eligible for the vaccine can get a $50 gift card per dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or $100 or two $50 gift cards per dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a release shows.

Also, already vaccinated residents can get a $50 gift card for each person they bring to get vaccinated, with no cap on the number of gift cards they can receive for these referrals.

“Our vaccination rates continue to lag behind the rest of the state, and I’m grateful that the Council has approved this plan to provide gift card incentives,” said Mayor Cory Mason. “I hope these incentives will encourage more of our residents to get vaccinated quickly help us protect our friends and loved ones from getting sick or dying.”

As of today, 50 percent of Racine County residents have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 46.4 percent have completed their vaccine series. Of the state’s total population, 53.5 percent have gotten at least one vaccine dose, and 50.3 percent are fully vaccinated.

The incentive program will be available starting today at the Public Health Department clinic in City Hall, a walk-in clinic at the Regency Mall, and various pop-up clinics located around the city. Participating residents will have to verify their address with clinic staff and fill out an entry form.

— The head of the Wisconsin Health Care Association and Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living is concerned that a federal mandate directing nursing homes to require COVID-19 vaccinations among staff would drive workers away from the field. 

“Eradicating COVID-19 is a very important priority, but in any care facility, the number one priority is caring for our patients,” WHCA/WCAL President and CEO Rick Abrams said in a recent interview. “If we have employees leaving facilities because they’re resolute in the decision not to get vaccinated, that would be a travesty for everybody.”

Federal officials will reportedly direct nursing homes across the country to require vaccinations among their staff, with those that don’t facing a loss of Medicaid and Medicarefunding. That’s according to a news report from the Washington Post.

Abrams criticized the “punitive” approach to improving public health, but added that “rather than jumping to conclusions, we look forward to hearing more detail.” He’s hopeful the Biden administration will work with national health care organizations on any such mandate.

“We have to work cooperatively to solve these problems and ensure our residents get the best care possible,” he said.

— The state Department of Health Services has announced that certain immunocompromised people in Wisconsin are eligible for a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, following approval by federal officials. 

According to a release, the recommendation applies to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both of which come in two doses given several weeks apart.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Disease, notes that people with certain medical conditions struggle to build up immunity from two-dose vaccine series.

“Fortunately, studies show that a third dose can help bolster the immune response in these individuals to achieve the same strong protection from the virus that those who are not immunocompromised were able to develop with just the two-dose series,” Westergaard said in a statement.

Additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be available for immunocompromised people ages 12 and up, while the additional dose of the Moderna vaccine is only for those 18 and older, the release shows. The extra dose should be given at least 28 days after the recipient has completed the initial vaccine series.

Qualifying conditions include receiving treatment for blood cancers or other tumors, receiving an organ transplant and taking immune-suppressing medications, getting a stem cell transplant in the past two years, and others.

The DHS announcement comes as federal health officials have announced plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots to anyone who’s completed the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series, starting the week of Sept. 20.