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Friday, January 15th, 2021

Senators urge Trump administration to develop national COVID vaccine plan

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A group of U.S. Senators recently demanded that the Trump administration take immediate action to remedy the COVID-19 vaccine distribution failures.

Specifically, the 43 senators are calling on Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to develop and implement a national vaccine plan. The lawmakers said they have been imploring the Trump Administration for months to communicate with local governments, vaccine and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) manufacturers, public health experts, and health care providers to develop a plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The lawmakers said the plan must account for the significant challenges that jurisdictions face in scaling up their workforces and include a massive public-facing campaign to promote vaccine confidence. They said the Trump administration must engage with states to identify and address challenges to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are quickly and equitably distributed across the country.

“The Trump Administration must act to correct the lack of transparency and communication from the federal government around COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration. Over the first two weeks of vaccine distribution, more than a dozen states found their actual vaccine allocations fell significantly below initial OWS allocation forecasts. For several days, OWS denied these discrepancies before ultimately admitting officials had provided states with flawed numbers,” the senators wrote in a letter to Azar. “Local health departments are largely excluded from planning calls with OWS and CDC, even though they often ultimately receive and administer vaccines.”

“A failure to plan strategically and proactively for vaccine distribution means communities of color, residents of congregate care facilities, rural communities, and other populations disproportionately at-risk will remain neglected in our pandemic response. This is especially true for the millions of health care workers of color who provide the daily care and support for residents of congregate care settings and who provide home health care. We have seen the toll this pandemic has taken on vulnerable communities and the egregious health disparities that have resulted from this pandemic, and we must act to combat these inequities,” they added.