Pandemic Pulse is a collection of newsworthy updates about the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest scientific and therapeutic developments and changes in public health policy. If you would like to receive notifications when new posts are published, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our Mailing List.

J.B. Asked: Can I Appeal a Disability Insurer’s Medical Review?

“I have long COVID and I recently filed a claim for disability insurance benefits through my workplace disability policy. The insurance company relied on a clinician’s review of my medical records to deny my claim. The clinician is employed by the insurance company, they never examined me in-person, and they do not specialize in a field of medicine relevant to my long COVID symptoms. Can I appeal the insurance company’s decision?”

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Pandemic Patients Launches COVID-19 Advocacy Center

The COVID-19 Advocacy Center provides guidance for individuals who want to take an active role in pushing for change among the state legislatures and Congress. It also includes information about current and upcoming advocacy opportunities across the country, with step-by-step instructions on how to participate.

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Biden Administration Releases Long COVID Reports to Support Patients and Researchers

On August 3, 2022, the Biden Administration announced the release of two reports on long COVID: the first report provided a summary of existing government programs that are available to support long COVID patients and the second report established a framework for future research on long COVID. These reports are the result of an executive order that President Biden issued in April, which required the federal government to undertake an inter-agency effort to address long COVID.

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FDA Grants EUA to Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine

On July 13, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA’s authorization of this vaccine provides an additional option for individuals who wish to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Long COVID Patients Bring ERISA Lawsuits to Secure Disability Benefits

American employers have experienced troubling economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic as many of their employees have become newly disabled by long COVID. In turn, some employees with long COVID have relied on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to obtain the benefits they are entitled to under their employers’ benefit plans.

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FMLA Shields Long COVID Patients from Workplace Retaliation

The coronavirus pandemic has jeopardized the health of countless American workers and has caused many to take medical leave to following an infection with COVID-19. For some people, COVID-19 can cause severe illness, which can qualify as a serious health condition under the FMLA. Unfortunately, some employers have not respected the FMLA rights of their employees, which has resulted in several lawsuits being brought on their behalf.

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Pandemic Patients Submits Testimony in Support of CA AB 2098

On June 20, 2022, Pandemic Patients submitted testimony to the California Senate Standing Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development in support of California Assembly Bill 2098 (AB 2098). If enacted, AB 2098 would include the dissemination of misinformation or disinformation about COVID-19 in the definition of unprofessional conduct. This would include inaccurate information about “the nature and risks of COVID-19, its prevention and treatment, and the development, safety, and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.” By including this type of behavior in the definition of unprofessional conduct, California will authorize the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California to discipline physicians and surgeons who spread disinformation or misinformation about COVID-19 to their patients.

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FDA Authorizes Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

On June 17, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended the Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (marketed as Comirnaty and Spikevax) to allow children as young as six months to get vaccinated against COVID-19. In making this decision, the FDA concluded that the vaccines are safe and effective for use in this population and that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the potential risks.

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Federal Courts Uphold Reasonable Accommodations for COVID-19

Federal guidance jointly issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), along with guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), clarify when COVID-19 may be considered a disability under the ADA. For example, COVID-19 may substantially limit a major life activity for an individual when virus-related effects last or are expected to last several months.

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P.M. Asked: Can I Negotiate Remote Work as a Condition of Employment if I am Immunocompromised?

“I am immunocompromised and thinking of switching jobs. Because of my compromised immune system, I need to work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic to avoid exposure to COVID-19. My current employer allows me to work remotely as a reasonable accommodation, but I don’t want to move to another job if they will not provide it. How can I negotiate remote work as a reasonable accommodation from a prospective employer as a condition of employment?”

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FDA Authorizes First Vaccine Booster for Children 5-11

On May 17, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (marketed as Comirnaty) to authorize the use of a single booster dose for children between the ages of five and eleven. The FDA authorized the administration of this booster at least five months after the completion of the primary vaccination series with the same vaccine.

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R.T. Asked: When Can I Get the COVID-19 Booster After Receiving Monoclonal Antibodies?

“When should immunocompromised patients get their second COVID-19 vaccine booster after receiving monoclonal antibodies? We are getting conflicting information from doctors, the news, medical literature, and hospitals on whether it is safe to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine booster after receiving monoclonal antibodies and whether doing this will reduce the efficacy of the vaccine. We are in a quandary, not knowing what to do.”

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FDA Authorizes the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer

On April 14, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer test. This new diagnostic tool uses a technique called gas chromatography gas mass-spectrometry (GC-MS) to identify whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus is present in a person’s breath.

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mRNA Vaccine Manufacturers Request Authorization for Fourth Dose

On March 15, 2022, Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an amendment to the Emergency Use Authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine (marketed as Comirnaty). This amendment requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorize Comirnaty for a fourth dose for adults 65 years of age and older who have already received one booster dose of any COVID-19 vaccine. Initial data cited by the vaccine manufacturers demonstrated that individuals who received the additional vaccine dose at least four months after receiving the first booster shot experienced a reduction in both confirmed infections and severe illness.

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Sen. Kaine Introduces the CARE for Long COVID Act

On March 2, 2022, Sens. Kaine, Duckworth, and Markey introduced S. 3726, the Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Act. If enacted, this legislation will invigorate the federal government’s response to the growing needs of patients living with long COVID.

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FDA Grants Full Approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine

On January 31, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and over. This vaccine will be marketed as “Spikevax,” and is the second COVID-19 vaccine to receive full approval from the FDA following the agency’s approval for Pfizer’s Comirnaty in 2021.

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Biden Administration to Distribute Free N95 Masks

On January 19, 2022, the Biden Administration announced that U.S. residents will be eligible to receive free N95 masks in the coming weeks. 400 million masks will be made available to the public from the Strategic National Stockpile, which currently has over 750 million masks in reserve. These masks will be available for pickup at local pharmacies and communities health centers across the country that have partnered with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign and each individual will be eligible to receive up to three masks.

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