From: Richele Taylor, SCMA, General Counsel & Senior Vice President Of Advocacy & Communications

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I know that everyone is busy, so I want to take a moment to highlight a few items the SCMA is currently working on/involved in. I have forwarded our last Alert that featured the top two items, as well as attaching a PDF on the third item of interest below. Please forward this email to other physicians and let them know the great things that the SCMA is involved in on COIVD-19 issues and the vaccine distribution.

  1. First, the SCMA is part of the South Carolina COVID Vaccine Advisory Committee that Dr. Linda Bell, MD, State Epidemiologist has gathered at DHEC. The SCMA is providing physician input on the vaccine prioritization/distribution. Dr. Cashman is graciously serving on this committee that meets during the weekday, providing feedback and input.
  1. The SCMA, as part of the Clinical Leadership Council, has worked on guidance to help healthcare professionals determine how best to distribute the vaccine when it is ready. It has provided vaccine guidance you can find here. Dr. Snyder and Dr. Ropp have assisted on this committee.
  1. The SCMA has partnered with many other health-centric associations and the Infectious Diseases Division of Prisma Health Medical Group to create a SC COVID-19 Virtual Grand Rounds Series. The SCMA will be part of this virtual CLE series on vaccinations and getting the word out on what to expect. The sessions will occur weekly beginning November 17th featuring COVID-19, vaccine planning and awareness, and antibody/other therapeutics. I have attached the announcement for the first in the series.

Please feel free to pass this on! More information below on these topics, and we will continue the SCMA involvement in any COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans.

Richele Taylor
SCMA
General Counsel & Senior Vice President Of Advocacy & Communications

SOUTH CAROLINA COVID-19 VACCINE PLAN UPDATES

The SCMA has been busy working with state officials and stakeholders to prepare for when a COIVD-19 vaccine is available.  On behalf of the SCMA, several physicians have volunteered their time to attend meetings and review proposed materials as our state prepares for a potential vaccine release. The SCMA works hard to provide a seat at the table for physicians, and it want to acknowledge how grateful we are for the hard working physicians who donate their time to fill these seats and provide clinical knowledge.  Below are several key items physicians should be aware of as this process moves forward.

First, on October 16, 2020, South Carolina submitted its COVID-19 Vaccination Plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Read the plan here. Frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinations can be found here.

Second, the federal Vaccines and Related Biological Product Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) is prepared to review potential vaccinations, and it is possible that a vaccine will be reviewed in early December.  To prepare, Dr. Linda Bell, MD, State Epidemiologist, has gathered a South Carolina COVID Vaccine Advisory Committee that is working on plans to distribute any vaccines on behalf of South Carolina.  The SCMA has a physician representative included.  The Committee is working hard to ensure a fair, equitable and evidence-based approach is used.  The SCMA will communicate information on vaccine prioritization before a vaccine is available.

Three, the SCMA, as part of the Clinical Leadership Council, has worked on guidance to help healthcare professionals determine how best to distribute the vaccine when it is ready.  Click here to see vaccine guidance for healthcare professionals in South Carolina from the Clinical Leadership Council.

Fourth, in preparation for distribution, of the vaccine, physicians can enroll in the vaccine distribution program.  Please see the important letter below from Linda Bell, MD, State Epidemiologist regarding the South Carolina COVID-19 Vaccination Program Enrollment and how to effectively enroll.
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October 28, 2020

Dear valued partners and healthcare providers:

The success of our state’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign will depend on the collaboration of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), our vaccine planning partners, health care systems and South Carolina health care providers to administer pandemic vaccines. Vaccination with a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to other important disease mitigation and prevention efforts such as face masks, frequent handwashing, and physical distancing, can help bring this pandemic under control.

Program Provider Agreement
All health care providers and organizations interested in receiving and administering COVID-19 vaccines in South Carolina are required to complete the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement. The CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement (section A) requests basic information regarding the organization, requires the chief medical officer and chief executive or fiduciary officer signatures, and includes an overview of the requirements/conditions for enrolling as a vaccine provider. Section B of the agreement, the Provider Profile information, requests information about the location(s) to which vaccine will be shipped and administered, including clinic hours/days of operation, provider type and setting, patient populations served, and vaccine storage capacity. To review a copy of the CDC’s provider agreement in its entirety, click here. Please note DHEC will NOT accept faxed, emailed, or mailed copies of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement. DHEC will utilize a Microsoft Forms survey to document provider acceptance of the terms of this agreement to serve as a COVID-19 vaccine provider. Interested providers should visit DHEC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Provider website to access the link to the enrollment form.

Vaccine Ordering, Distribution, and Documentation Reporting
DHEC will use its immunization information system (IIS) known as SIMON (Statewide Immunization Online Network) for vaccine ordering, distribution, and documentation of administered COVID-19 vaccines throughout the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Currently, all immunizations administered in South Carolina by any immunization provider must be reported to SIMON under Regulation 61-120. Organizations must also be enrolled in SIMON to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination program. Organizations not currently enrolled in SIMON can click here to submit a SIMON onboarding request.

South Carolina is making every effort to enroll as many eligible providers as possible into the COVID-19 vaccination program to achieve high vaccine coverage in our population and protect as many as possible. Questions regarding the COVID-19 Vaccine Program Provider Agreement, COVID-19 vaccination program enrollment, or SIMON enrollment for COVID-19 vaccine program participation, can be directed to COVIDProviderEnrollment@dhec.sc.gov.

Thank you for your consideration to provide COVID-19 vaccines to South Carolinians. Together, we can improve health outcomes for all!

Linda J. Bell, MD
State Epidemiologist
Director, Bureau of Communicable Disease and Prevention and Control Public Health
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

As leaders of the health community here in South Carolina, the South Carolina Medical Association, the South Carolina Hospital Association and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina all strongly encourage you to do your part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a face mask in public.

Physicians from around the state share their insights related to COVID-19 as we work together to slow the spread of Coronavirus in South Carolina. Click here to check out the most recent blog posts by SCMA President, Michael T. Finch Jr., MD and Elizabeth Mack, MD, Medical Director, MUSC Health.

Cybersecurity – Cyber Threats to Healthcare

The AMA recently provided information that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and two additional federal agencies warned of an “imminent cybercrime threat” to US hospitals and health care providers.  With COVID-19, cybercriminals are aiming at health care providers and public health agencies with ransomware for financial gain.  If you are not familiar with this, a company takes over your computer systems and demands a ransom in order for you to access the information, which can include patient records.  The AMA urged hospitals, physician practices, and public health organizations to take precautions.  The FBI and other agencies recommended several steps, which the AMA distilled to the following:

  • Patch operating systems, software, and firmware as soon as manufacturers release updates.
  • Regularly change passwords to network systems and accounts and avoid reusing passwords for different accounts.
  • Use multi-factor authentication where possible.
    • Disallow use of personal email accounts
  • Disable unused remote access/Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) ports and monitor remote access/RDP logs.
  • Identify critical assets; create backups of these systems and house the backups offline from the network.
  • Set antivirus and anti-malware solutions to automatically update; conduct regular scans.

The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association (AHA) have created two resources to help physicians and hospitals guard against cyber threats. Those resources and additional cyber security information can be found at the AMA’s cybersecurity webpage.

The SCMA takes this opportunity to remind you that when you are at home reviewing patient information, you must have a firewall and anti-malware software to protect this access point to data.  Most internet access modems and routers have built in firewalls, but not anti-malware that is subscription based and updated automatically, such as Netgear Nighthawk.  And, be careful when you are not behind a firewall, such as using public access in a Starbucks or at the airport.  If you are interested in learning more about Cyber Liability Insurance, contact your Fulcrum Risk Solutions Representative Jimmy Cannizzaro to learn about such insurance products.