White House to ship COVID-19 vaccines directly to community health centers

Community health centers will be receiving coronavirus vaccines directly from the federal government next week, White House officials announced Tuesday.

The goal of the new program is to focus on equitable vaccine distribution, in order to reach traditionally underserved areas.

“Equity is core to our strategy to put this pandemic behind us, and equity means that we are reaching everyone, particularly those in underserved and rural communities, and those who have been hit hardest by this pandemic,” Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a press briefing.

The program will begin incrementally and will ramp up over time as vaccine supply increases, officials said. The administration will initially send doses to at least one health center in every jurisdiction across the country, with 1 million doses divided across 250 clinics as the program phases in over the next few weeks.

Nationwide, there are nearly 1,400 federally funded health centers that provide primary and preventive care to nearly 30 million patients each year. 

“Equity is our North Star here. This effort that focuses on direct allocation to the community health centers really is about connecting with those hard-to-reach populations across the country,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the White House’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

Nunez-Smith said the program hasn’t made any selections yet, but is focusing on clinics that primarily treat people who are experiencing homelessness, agricultural and migrant workers, residents of public housing and those with limited English proficiency.

She also said the administration is focusing on centers that are able to handle any of the increased capacity, particularly around the vaccine storage and staffing.

Health centers will continue to follow state priority guidelines in administering the vaccine, and meet necessary reporting requirements.

In addition to the health center program, administration officials said they are increasing the number of weekly doses allocated to states, tribes and territories. 

Zients said the federal government will ship 11 million doses every week, a 28 percent increase from the 8.6 million doses going out when President Biden took office three weeks ago.

Tags community health centers Coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine Deployment of COVID-19 vaccines Jeff Zients Joe Biden Marcella Nunez-Smith vaccine equity

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