American Hospital Association calls on Trump administration to increase pace of vaccinations

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The American Hospital Association on Thursday called on the Trump administration to take action to speed up coronavirus vaccinations, saying it is concerned about the “slow pace” so far. 

Hospitals are at the center of the first stage of vaccinations, for health care workers, but they said in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that they “have seen a number of barriers” so far. 

Richard Pollack, the CEO of the American Hospital Association, wrote that there are problems with lines of communication. “It is unclear who is responsible for answering questions or by what mechanism all interested parties will receive the answers to these questions that should shape their actions going forward,” he wrote. 

He advised that the administration could hold update calls where hospitals can ask questions, as has already been done around distribution of the coronavirus treatment remdesivir. “On the calls, relevant federal leaders provided brief updates and stakeholders were encouraged to ask questions or raise problems that needed to be resolved. A similar strategy might serve you well here,” he wrote.

The warnings come as government data shows over 17.2 million vaccines have been distributed, but just around 5.3 million have actually been administered. 

Administration officials have acknowledged that the rollout is going slower than they hoped. 

President-elect Joe Biden has criticized the Trump administration for the lagging pace and vowed to engage the federal government more heavily to speed it up. 

Pollack reported hearing confusion, including that “some hospitals received far less vaccine than they requested and needed, while others received more than they could use for Priority 1 individuals, but without an explanation for this mismatch.”

He added that progress should be measured against the goals, and it should be made clear whether the current pace is fast enough to get the country vaccinated on schedule, which he said could mean as many as 1.8 million vaccinations per day between Jan. 15 and May 31. 

“Currently, there are 64 disparate microplans developed by the states, a few large cities, and other jurisdictions,” Pollack wrote. “Has the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) assessed whether these plans, taken as a whole, are capable of achieving this level of vaccination? If not, is the Department working with the jurisdictions to amend their plans to achieve this goal?”

Asked about the hospital association’s letter, an HHS spokesperson pointed to actions the department has already taken, including accelerating the use of pharmacies to distribute vaccines and urging states to open up vaccinations to more people if demand is not high enough in the initial groups.

“Through CDC and Operation Warp Speed, we are committed to continuing the daily work we have been doing with states and jurisdictions for months to execute on their plans for vaccine administration,” the spokesperson said.

Updated at 2:30 p.m.

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