All eyes are on the vaccine rollout, but despite a bumpy start, COVID-19 case numbers are dropping and the fall is not just a result of mass vaccinations. In a column published on the New England Journal of Medicine’s Journal Watch website, Brigham and Women’s Hospital infectious disease specialist, Dr. Paul Sax, says there are five factors that could be behind the weakening of the coronavirus pandemic across the nation, but it’s not clear which factor, or combination of them, is responsible.
Additionally, with equitable distribution at the forefront of the vaccine conversation, community health centers (CHCs) are gearing up for an expanded role in Massachusetts’s vaccination effort. CHCs often serve the most vulnerable populations and provide direct access to the neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19. During a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Michael Curry, CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, said “Our health centers want to make sure that the patients that are closest to the disease are closest to the vaccine.” Manny Lopes, CEO of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and Greenough client, added, “When you open up the doors, you’ll see that first flood of people, the strong yesses. But you’ve got to stay focused on those that are on the ‘maybe’ list, and those that are saying the hard ‘no.’ ”
On the health policy side, Xavier Becerra’s pathway to becoming the next health and human services secretary appears smoother after this week’s confirmation hearing. During his first day of questioning, the California attorney general threw his support behind efforts to improve access to care, aligning himself with President Joe Biden’s healthcare agenda. He also embraced price transparency, which received widespread, bipartisan support from the Senate committee. Becerra said that HHS would aggressively enforce price transparency under his leadership, suggesting that Congress should give the agency more power to create and enforce transparency rules.
President Biden’s pick for CMS administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, will also face senate confirmation. A health policy veteran, Brooks-LaSure worked at the agency in the Obama administration. According to Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson, “Chiquita has very broad experience at CMS and also has experience in the major governmental organizations where CMS collaborates. She is also an outstanding listener which combined with her experience will help her succeed.” It will be interesting to see how these two appointments impact the Affordable Care Act and the transition to value-based care as the year progresses.