State health officials tell Congress they need $8.4B for COVID-19 vaccination effort
State public health officials are urging Congress to provide at least $8.4 billion in emergency funding for distributing a coronavirus vaccine, warning that they do not currently have enough money to carry out the immense logistical effort.
The letter to bipartisan congressional leaders came from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), a group that represents state public health departments, and the Association of Immunization Managers (AIM), which represents states’ vaccination officials.
While much attention has been placed on the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, there is also the daunting challenge of distributing that vaccine and getting shots into the arms of more than 300 million people in the United States.
There are additional logistical challenges given that some of the potential vaccines require storage at extremely cold temperatures, meaning they require special freezers.
Claire Hannan, AIM’s executive director, warned in a statement that without additional funding, the vaccination effort is “doomed to fail.”
“We want to be absolutely clear — states and local partners cannot conduct an unprecedented and incredibly complex national vaccine distribution program without adequate resources,” she added.
So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has distributed only $200 million to states for vaccination efforts.
“This funding is a necessary first step but equals approximately 60 cents per person,” Hannan said. “It is not adequate to vaccinate every American with the expected two dose course at this amount.”
The letter calls for $3 billion for workforce recruitment and training for state and local health departments, $1.2 billion for transportation and storage at the needed cold temperatures, $500 million for outreach efforts to fight vaccine misinformation and $1 billion for creating additional vaccination sites, among other requests.
The CDC itself has also told Congress it urgently needs more funding for the vaccination effort, a figure CDC Director Robert Redfield put at $6 billion last month.
“The time is now for us to be able to get those resources out to the state, and we currently don’t have those resources,” Redfield said at a congressional hearing in September.
But there is no clear path for Congress to provide that funding, given that lawmakers have been mired in disagreement for months over the next coronavirus relief package, with President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) all on different pages.
“ASTHO and AIM urge Congress and the administration to come together to enact a swift, bipartisan agreement on a COVID-19 emergency supplemental package,” ASTHO head Michael Fraser said in a statement.
The Trump administration has turned to the states for much of the planning of the distribution of a vaccine. State plans are due on Friday, at the same time state officials caution they need more money.
The bipartisan heads of the National Governors Association wrote to President Trump on Thursday requesting a meeting to better coordinate vaccination efforts, saying “additional guidance and clarification is needed on the roles and expectations of states in a successful COVID-19 vaccine distribution and implementation plan.”