HHS further expands access to COVID-19 countermeasures via telehealth

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On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would increase access to COVID-19 countermeasures through telehealth by amending the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act for the fourth time.

“During the pandemic, the Trump Administration has made broader use of the PREP Act to expand access to potentially life-saving countermeasures than we’ve ever done before in a public health emergency,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This new use of the PREP Act will help expand access to important services via telehealth, increase availability of authorized PPE, and make it easier to administer eventual COVID-19 vaccines.”

The latest amendment would allow healthcare personnel in one state to order or administer covered countermeasure, like diagnostic tests, for patients in another state using telehealth. The amendment also expands the scope of PREP Act immunity to cover more healthcare providers who could administer COVID-19 vaccines by modifying and clarifying what training is required for pharmacists, pharmacy interns and pharmacy technicians for them to be able to give vaccines to patients.

Clarifies the scope of PREP Act immunity in various ways. For instance, the amendment makes explicit that there can be situations where not administering a covered countermeasure to a particular individual can fall within the PREP Act and the Declaration’s liability protections. The amendment also incorporates the HHS Office of the General Counsel’s advisory opinions concerning the PREP Act and Declaration.

Further, the amendment provides broader protections for healthcare providers who use covered countermeasures to combat COVID-19 and provides protections for healthcare professionals who determine not to administer a covered countermeasure.

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