Trump administration to announce vaccine deal for long-term care facilities

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The Trump administration plans to announce Friday a deal with CVS and Walgreens to administer a future coronavirus vaccine to seniors and staff in long-term care facilities free of charge, according to two sources familiar with the agreement.

Under the arrangement, the companies would send personnel into the facilities to provide the inoculations on-site.

President Donald Trump — who polls show is trailing Joe Biden among Americans over 65 — is expected to reference the deal at a Florida speech on “protecting seniors” Friday afternoon, but one source said the plan could still change.

HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The announcement comes as health officials race to fulfill Trump’s vow that all vulnerable Americans will get a coronavirus vaccine for free. Yet it would only cover the narrow slice of seniors who live in long-term care facilities, meaning millions of Medicare beneficiaries are still at risk of being charged out of pocket for the cost of administering a vaccine.

HHS has spent the last several weeks searching for ways to expand no-cost coverage to the rest of the Medicare population, people familiar with the discussions said, but have not yet settled on a solution.

Background: No Covid-19 vaccine has been authorized or approved for use in the United States, and the Trump administration and states are still working on plans for quickly distributing an eventual vaccine to hundreds of millions of people. The first vaccines are widely expected to go to frontline health care workers and vulnerable populations, including seniors.

There has been some question about whether Medicare could legally pay for a vaccine that’s been authorized by the FDA on an emergency basis, as the first vaccines likely will be. Friday’s announcement with the major drug store chains could potentially address those concerns for those living and working in long-term care facilities.

While Trump has repeatedly promised a vaccine would be available by Election Day, no major pharmaceutical manufacturer plans to submit a vaccine to the FDA for review by Nov. 3. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla announced Friday his company won’t have safety data necessary to submit its vaccine candidate until at least the end of November. Moderna, another frontrunner in the vaccine race, has also said it won’t be ready to file an application for emergency use authorization of its vaccine before the election.

What’s next: The FDA is scheduled to hold an advisory committee meeting on Oct. 22 to discuss the review process for a coronavirus vaccine once a company files for authorization or approval.

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