We are now a year-and-a-half into the COVID‑19 pandemic, and rheumatologists and rheumatology professionals are still facing some of the same challenges that began in spring 2020, as well as new ones. Most recently, we learned that COVID‑19 vaccine efficacy is reduced in some patients on immunosuppressive therapies and the need for additional immunization is clear, especially with the rise of new disease variants. Many wonder how to effectively reach out to their patients who have not been vaccinated. Uncertainty exists regarding the future of regulatory and reimbursement issues surrounding telemedicine. Additionally, some rheumatology practices are still struggling to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.
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Explore This IssueSeptember 2021
Yet when I look back, I cannot help but be heartened by the way the rheumatology community has risen to meet the many changes and difficulties of the past 18 months. The ACR has striven to identify and meet its members’ needs, and has done so with unprecedented volume, effectiveness and speed. I’d like to take a moment to honor the hours of dedication given by ACR staff members and by those in the rheumatology community who have volunteered their time on ACR-based initiatives.
Especially during the early part of the pandemic, ACR members confronted many unknown obstacles and questions. We at the ACR tried to aid our members in whatever way we could. To help meet these needs, the ACR’s Executive Committee formed two different task forces: the Clinical Guidance Task Force, chaired by Ted Mikuls, MD, MSPH, and the Practice and Advocacy Task Force, chaired by Kelly Weselman, MD.
Subsequently, task forces for the clinical care of pediatric patients, for the diagnosis and management of the multi-system inflammatory disorder in children (MIS‑C) and for the use of COVID-19 vaccines were formed. I thank Jay Mehta, MD, MS; Dawn Wahezi, MD, MS; Lauren Henderson, MD, MMSc; Jeffrey Curtis MD, MS, MPH, and the other chairs for their leadership of these groups. The members of these task forces have worked tirelessly to provide guidance to ACR members and serve the membership in many different ways.
Clinical guidance for rheumatic patients with respect to the novel virus was obviously needed. This posed a substantial undertaking for many College volunteers and staff who were tasked with providing information that was both evidence-based and timely. Members produced four different guidance documents overseen by the different groups—one each for adult rheumatic patients, for pediatric rheumatic patients, for MIS-C and for COVID-19 vaccine guidance (https://www.rheumatology.org/Announcements).
In each case, initial summaries of the information have been released online, to provide prompt information, with the complete versions of the papers later published in journal form. The group members have released multiple, updated versions as new data have accrued to provide the most up-to-date data available to help rheumatologists treat and advise their patients.