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President-elect Joseph R. Biden has unveiled a plan to jump-start the nation’s faltering COVID-19 vaccine effort that will include establishing mass vaccination sites and mobile vaccine clinics around the nation.
Biden has repeatedly promised that his administration will vaccinate 100 million people during the first 100 days. “I’m convinced we can get it done,” Biden said in remarks on Friday. “This is a time to set big goals and to pursue them with courage and conviction because the health of the nation is at stake,” he said.
The plan calls for a $20 billion investment in a national vaccination program. The funds are included as part of a $400 billion COVID response contained in the proposed $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that Biden hopes to get through Congress. His administration aims to ensure that all Americans can receive a vaccine with zero cost-sharing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 million COVID-19 doses have been distributed and 12.2 million have been administered thus far, including 1.3 million to residents of long-term care facilities. Some 1.6 million individuals have received 2 doses, and thus are considered fully vaccinated.
In the televised speech, Biden outlined five major goals:
Work with states to expand eligibility to anyone age 65 or older and to essential workers while continuing to vaccinate healthcare workers
Set up thousands of new, federally supported mass vaccination centers at gyms, stadiums, and other locations — with 100 set up by the end of his first month in office; the sites would be supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which will mobilize thousands of clinical and nonclinical staff and contractors to work with state and local teams and the National Guard; Biden is seeking to have the federal government cover 100% of states’ National Guard deployment costs and fully cover the states’ costs for Medicaid recipients
Deploy mobile vaccination clinics to hard-to-reach, underserved urban and rural areas, relying in part on community-based physicians
“Jump-start” a federal partnership with pharmacies to increase capacity at chains and independent outlets
Use the full strength of the federal government to ramp up supply, which means using the Defense Production Act to help ensure the uninterrupted production and delivery of vaccine and vaccine supplies, with an aim of releasing most vaccine supply when available, while keeping a small reserve to cover unforeseen shortages or delays
Increasing vaccination means expanding the workforce, which has been taxed by the ongoing COVID response.
The Biden plan would encourage states to allow additional qualified professionals to administer vaccines and expand the scope of practice laws and waive licensing requirements as appropriate. Biden said he envisions using military clinicians, FEMA personnel, and staff from the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to help expand the number of vaccinators. He also said he would seek a declaration to allow certain qualified professionals, including retired medical workers who are not licensed to administer vaccines, to be able to do so with appropriate training.
The President-elect also promised to be transparent. “We’re going to make sure that state and local officials know how much supply they’ll be getting and when they can expect to get it so they can plan,” he said.
He noted that officials have said they aren’t getting clear information from the current administration on vaccine supply.
Biden said his administration would lead with science and that his agencies would be “free from political influence.”
Addressing vaccine hesitancy will also be a priority and will be done through what he called a “massive public education campaign to rebuild that trust, to help people understand what science tells us — that vaccines help reduce the risk of COVID infections,” Biden said.
The President-elect also vowed that “equity is central to our COVID response,” and that people of color, with disabilities, and seniors would not be left behind.
Biden acknowledged that, “We need funding from Congress to make this happen,” and that it “may take many months to get to where we need to be.”
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