Friday, January 15th, 2021

IDSA president, HIV Medicine Association chair call on US government to immediately address impediments to COVID-19 vaccine access

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Dr. Barbara Alexander, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), and Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, chair of the HIV Medicine Association, called this week for swift action to overcome the hurdles slowing COVID-19 vaccine access and efforts to counter the raging pandemic.

“To address the worsening public health emergency, vaccination programs must be well-resourced and accelerated with strong and transparent production, distribution, and administration plans,” Alexander and Gandhi said in a joint statement. “We support the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s statement released Monday that changes to the authorized use of the vaccines, including the dosing that has been informed by clinical trial data, would be premature and potentially harmful.”

With the coming of winter, infection rates have skyrocketed in the United States, with nearly 1.5 million new cases in the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 358,000 people have died due to COVID-19 in the United States since the pandemic began.

In response to that rollout, some have called for reducing the number of doses required, extending the length of time between doses, or similar efforts to allow more people to be immunized. While noting these to be reasonable things to consider, earlier this week, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Director Peter Marks, of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, dismissed any calls to change FDA-authorized dosing as premature and without scientific footing, based on available science.

“Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk, undermining the historic vaccination efforts to protect the population from COVID-19,” Alexander and Gandhi said.

The pair noted that changes could undermine the effectiveness of vaccines and erode public trust necessary for vaccine rollout. Science, leadership, funding, collaboration, and cooperation are critical to forward momentum, they said. Social distancing and other containment efforts should continue, even as people are encouraged to vaccinate as soon as possible.

“The outgoing and incoming administrations must strengthen federal leadership to ensure that adequate funding, including funding recently appropriated by Congress, immediately reaches state and local health departments and partners,” Alexander and Gandhi said. “This is necessary to support successful vaccine administration strategies, including expanding staffing for planning and implementation and working with healthcare providers, healthcare systems, and workplaces to operate high-volume sites and ensure timely access to vaccines by eligible populations. We urge states to work with the federal government, in accordance with recommendations from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, to ensure optimal and equitable vaccine allocation that appropriately prioritizes those who need the vaccine most.”