HHS says it plans to extend Covid-19 public health emergency
The administration has not notified groups including the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Federation of American Hospitals and the American Public Health Association that the PHE would end, a courtesy HHS has said it would be 60 days before the Covid -19 statement has been terminated. The 60-day notice is said to have been issued early this week under that promise.
“Government silence means the public health emergency will almost certainly be extended through January 2023,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The US continues to average nearly 100,000 documented Covid-19 infections and more than 400 deaths per day, according to CDC data. Federal health officials and public health experts warn that the health care system could be stretched in the coming months if an expected resurgence in Covid-19 infections in the fall coincides with flu season.
“I expect this fall and winter to be much more like the fall and winter of 2019 than the past two years with much less mitigation,” Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said at a virtual meeting on Tuesday. the American Chamber of Commerce. “And that means we have to be ready for more flu and more Covid.”
Regulatory flexibility under the PHE that allowed pharmacists to administer Covid-19 vaccines will also be important to stay ahead of a potential bivalent booster campaign in the fall, according to Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
“We still have pharmacists in some communities who can now give vaccines that they didn’t have before, so it will be very important to ensure that health professionals can deliver the vaccine,” Benjamin said.
The decision to extend the emergency declaration comes after extensive discussions among top Biden officials about when it would be appropriate to let the designation expire, POLITICO previously reported. HHS has extended the public health emergency every 90 days since it was first indicated.
House Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and ranking member of the Health Subcommittee Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) argued last week that the Biden administration “has no good justification” for maintaining the PHE without providing additional details on how the administration will wind it down.
But Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, argued that now is not an appropriate time to end the PHE given the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the healthcare system.
“Even though the public has turned the page, we are dealing with it every day,” Kahn said. “The flu is coming, as is the possibility of Covid spreading that would lead to more hospitalizations. We’re just not ready to make a big turnaround.”
When the Covid-19 Emergency Declaration is eventually terminated, medical products marketed under an FDA-granted emergency use approval will not necessarily be withdrawn immediately. The agency has also published guidelines outlining how it plans to port such products over time.
The desk authorities regulating the use of medical products in emergencies will remain in effect until HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra declares an end to the separate statement under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which allows the agency to issue EUAs.