• The San Juan Daily Star

CDC ends virus vaccine provider agreement with island Nat’l Guard

Puerto Rico National Guard Adj. Gen. José Reyes said the Guard will continue screening for the coronavirus at the island’s airports.

Citizen soldiers to continue in screening role at Puerto Rico’s airports

By John McPhaul

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined earlier this week to terminate the CDC’s Provider Agreement with the Puerto Rico National Guard (PRNG), effective immediately.

The CDC took the action late Monday based on information provided to the agency by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Inspector General indicating violations of the Provider Agreement.

According to a letter dated Dec. 6, 2021, in December 2020, the CDC began distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to providers enrolled in the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program for the administration of the vaccine to those eligible to receive it as determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and as recommended by the CDC or the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

As a condition of enrollment in the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program and receipt of the vaccine, eligible providers had to agree to the CDC Provider Agreement. The general purpose of the Provider Agreement is to ensure that all program requirements are met, including those related to individuals eligible to receive the vaccine. The CDC also cautioned that providers who violate the terms of the Provider Agreement are subject to termination of the agreement and suspension of receipt of the vaccine.

In December 2020, the FDA authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 years of age and older with an Emergency Use Authorization, and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age, followed by ACIP and CDC recommendations in this regard.

On May 10, 2021, the FDA further authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12-15 years of age, and on May 12, ACIP and CDC recommended the use of the vaccine for this age group.

On Oct. 28, 2021, the CDC received reports from the HHS Office of the Inspector General indicating that between February and July 2021, the PRNG administered the COVID-19 vaccine to children under 16 years of age prior to the authorization of such use by the FDA and CDC/ACIP recommendation. The administered dose size was that authorized by the FDA for individuals 16 years of age and older (for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine) and people 18 years of age and older (for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine).

Those actions, the CDC stated, violated at least two provisions of the CDC Provider Agreement.

The PRNG announced on Tuesday that it will continue screening at the island’s airports.

“Now the Department of Health, with more than 900 providers, will be in charge of this stage of vaccination that includes children 5 years and older, as well as the administration of third doses to the population,” said PRNG Adj. Gen. José Reyes in a written statement. “The PRNG will continue to support the Department of Health by conducting medical screening at airports.”

Reyes added that “given the emergency caused by COVID-19, more than 1,500 citizen-soldiers and airmen of our Guard said they were present to face this pandemic, thus becoming the cornerstone of the country’s safety.”

“Men and women, regardless of the risk, worked with a single purpose in mind, to protect the health of the people of Puerto Rico,” the PRNG leader said. “Today we can see the result of their effort and devotion. We owe to each one of them the gratitude for their sacrifice, dedication, loyalty and commitment for the good of our island.”

During the most demanding months of the pandemic, the PRNG administered vaccination centers in San Juan, Bayamón, Caguas, Arecibo, Ponce, Barranquitas, Humacao, Mayagüez and Trujillo Alto, while conducting screenings at all island airports and docks.

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