Waivers Issued Regarding Retired Physician and Medical Student Administration of COVID-19 Vaccines, Volunteer Licensee Practice Sites Also Expanded

Last Updated: Feb 8, 2021

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UPDATE: Med Mal Insurance Not Required for Retired Physicians, including those Physicians holding an Active-Retired License

On Feb. 5, 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) and Gov. Wolf issued regulatory waivers enabling certain retired physicians and medical students to assist with COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Additionally, a waiver was also issued expanding volunteer licensee practice sites beyond approved clinics and organizations, and suspending certain administrative requirements related to volunteer licenses.  

Waiver Allowing Retired Physicians to Administer COVID-19 Vaccines

This regulatory waiver enables physicians and nurses whose Pennsylvania licenses lapsed, expired or became inactive within the last five years to administer COVID-19 vaccines without reactivating or renewing their licenses, provided they meet specific qualification requirements.

These requirements are as follows for physicians:

  • who have held active licenses to prescribe, dispense or administer vaccines within the last five years, and
  • whose licenses are currently inactive, expired or lapsed, and
  • whose licenses, at the time of the lapse or expiration, were
    • active in good standing, and
    • not revoked, suspended, under investigation or on the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities

Additionally, before administering COVID-19 vaccines, retired practitioners must also complete the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) COVID-19 Vaccine Training Modules and be observed by a practicing healthcare professional who documents that the retired licensee is experienced in vaccination and is competent in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. CDC Training Modules can be accessed here.

The full waiver can be accessed here.

This waiver is in accordance with and provides clarity following a recent announcement by President Biden of his Administration’s plan to utilize retired physicians to assist with COVID-19 vaccination efforts and a subsequent amendment by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act for Medical Countermeasures Against COVID-19 (PREP Act) to allow such. The full amendment can be accessed here.

This waiver applies solely to COVID-19 vaccines and shall last for the duration of the amendments to the PREP Declaration, or for the duration of the Governor's Disaster Emergency Declaration, whichever is longer, plus an additional 90 days thereafter, unless terminated sooner.

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 UPDATED: February 12, 2021


PAMED continued to advocate for its members and sought clarification regarding the waiver relative to retired physicians, including whether they apply to only retired physicians or also to physicians who hold an active-retired license (which allows physicians to care for family members). 

This waiver applies to physicians who have an active-retired, inactive, or expired license (i.e., those physicians who have fully retired from practice and no longer practice medicine). To administer vaccines under this waiver, there is no change needed in a physician’s licensure status. Physicians will maintain their current license status. Such licensees (active-retired, expired, inactive) are not required to maintain medical professional liability insurance under the MCARE Act. The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) has received clarification that physicians utilizing this waiver to administer COVID-19 vaccines do not need to obtain professional liability insurance.

Regarding liability, note that the PREP Act provides certain liability protections for healthcare professionals for claims arising out of the use of covered countermeasures (which includes the administration of the COVID vaccine), except for those involving willful misconduct. For information regarding the PREP Act, see here. Additionally, note that healthcare professionals in certain facilities and settings were granted liability protections under an executive order issued by Gov. Wolf last year.

Physicians should be aware that while they may have immunity protection and are not required to obtain malpractice insurance, this does not mean that they are immune from having a lawsuit filed against them. No statute, executive order, or waiver can prohibit a lawsuit from being filed. While a physician may ultimately prevail in any lawsuit where they are deemed to be immune, they will still be required to defend the initial suit filed against them. Such defense comes with associated costs. Therefore, while malpractice insurance may not be required, physicians should still consider their individual circumstances to determine whether to obtain malpractice insurance, even with immunity protection. PAMED encourages any physician looking to administer COVID vaccinations to speak with their malpractice insurance carrier or the entity for whom they will be providing services. PAMED wants to ensure that its members have a fuller picture of what immunity covers and just as importantly, what it does not cover. While the chances may be slim regarding a lawsuit, that possibility still exists, however remote.  

 

Waiver Regarding Medical Students

The State Board of Medicine and State Board of Osteopathic Medicine regulate medical students only to the extent that they perform as "clinical clerks." DOS requested, and the Governor approved, a waiver to allow clinical clerks licensed under both boards to assist in administering COVID-19 vaccinations across the Commonwealth, and not just in the hospitals to which they have been assigned.

Appropriate supervisors of clinical clerks for this waiver shall include physicians and surgeons, physician assistants and nurse-midwives licensed by the State Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine and certified registered nurse practitioners and registered nurses licensed by the State Board of Nursing. This waiver applies solely to COVID-19 vaccines and shall be valid for the duration of the Governor's Disaster Emergency Declaration plus an additional 90 days thereafter, unless terminated sooner.

The full waiver can be accessed here.

Waiver Expanding Volunteer License Practice Sites

Under the Volunteer Health Services Act, a volunteer license holder is authorized to practice without remuneration only in "approved clinics" or upon referral from an approved organization. DOS requested and Gov. Wolf approved a suspension of this requirement so that licensed volunteers under the State Boards of Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine and Nursing can administer vaccinations in settings that fall outside the definition of an "approved clinic," including community-based, primary-care clinics and clinics in medically underserved areas, as well as state and federally qualified health centers.

Additionally, the requirement that applicants for a volunteer license submit a letter signed by the director or chief operating officer of the "approved clinic" where they are volunteering has also been suspended.

The full waiver can be accessed here.

PAMED Advocacy

Through conversations with the Acting Secretary of Health as well as other state representatives, PAMED advocated for clarity and guidance regarding the ability of retired physicians to assist with COVID-19 vaccinations.

Additionally, PAMED recently submitted a letter requesting regulatory waivers to allow retired physicians to help with vaccination efforts and for expansion of the parameters of the Volunteer Health Services Act. PAMED applauds the swift response on these requests and thanks Acting Secretary of Health Beam for her assistance.

Access PAMED’s letter here.

Where Can I find Additional Information?

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, additional statutory and regulatory suspensions continue to be issued, PAMED will continue to provide updates as suspensions related to physician practice and licensure are announced. When announced, licensing suspensions will be posted by DOS here.

PAMED has established a COVID-19 resource page where you will find additional information and resources on the COVID-19 outbreak.


10 comments

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  1. Pennsylvania Medical Society | Feb 19, 2021
    Dr. Abramowitz,

    Thank you for your comment. Please note that immunity does not protect someone from being sued, as immunity is not absolute. Immunity does not apply if a court determines that a person’s action constituted gross negligence or an intent to harm. Rather, immunity protects the person during the lawsuit itself.  If a lawsuit is filed, the physician must defend himself/herself and argue that they are immune from suit. If a court agrees, the case will be dismissed. If a court determines that the physician is not immune from suit, then the case will proceed.
  2. Richard Abramowitz | Feb 18, 2021
    I read the update.  There is no actual protection from liability. If you dont have insurance you can be ruined. The immumity they talk about is in name only. As they say you can still be sued. So what good is it. As a retired doctor I should risk my families financial future?  I think not. 
  3. Pennsylvania Medical Society | Feb 15, 2021

    Dr. Kirk,

    Thank you for your comment. We certainly understand your frustration. Please know that PAMED is in regular communication with the Pa. Department of Health advocating on behalf of physicians and their patients and ensuring that they hear concerns from physicians.

  4. Pennsylvania Medical Society | Feb 15, 2021

    Dr. Lee,

    Thank you for your comment. To sign up to volunteer, please visit SERVAPA at https://www.serv.pa.gov. You may also want to check with your local health care entities (such as local hospitals and health systems) to inquire about any volunteer opportunities they may have. If other opportunities become available, we will communicate those with our members via the Dose (PAMED’s member e-newsletter that comes out every Thursday).

  5. Pennsylvania Medical Society | Feb 15, 2021

    Dr. Eckel,

    Thank you for your comment. PAMED continued to advocate and seek clarification regarding whether medical professional liability insurance was required to administer COVID vaccines under this waiver. Please see the updated information in the above article clarifying that professional liability insurance is not required by MCARE and that certain liability protections may be applicable. 

  6. William Lee | Feb 12, 2021

    Where and how can I sign up?

    Thanks

    William Lee MD

  7. Quinn Kirk | Feb 11, 2021
    Unfortunately, the issue isn’t with having people to give vaccines, it is availability of vaccine!
  8. Timothy Eckel | Feb 10, 2021

    2/10/2021

    What about Liability Protection? Is this included in this Waiver? I have an Active-Retired License but have NO malpractice insurance. If I worked with a local independent pharmacy that is giving Covid-19 shots during day long clinics on week-ends, am I protected from a lawsuit via the Good Samaritan law or in this specific Emergency Declaration?

    Thanks,

    Tim Eckel MD

  9. PAMED Staff Response: | Feb 09, 2021

    Dr. Makarowski,

    Thank you for your comment. It is recommended to consult with the entity whom physicians plan to volunteer with or vaccinate for as to what their vaccination procedure for providers is.

  10. William Makarowski | Feb 09, 2021

    This information was very helpful.

    I have a question. If I were to volunteer, would that allow me to get the vaccine, also?

    I've had an impossible time trying to schedule a vaccine through the usual methods. 

    Does PMS have a method where retired physicians, like myself, could get the Covid vaccine in an expedited way so that we could assist in this current pandemic and/or other community issues if they arise?

    Thank you.

    Looking forward to your response.


    William S. Makarowski, MD

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