One person holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the University Of Louisville Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, on Monday, December 14, 2020.
Scotty Perry | Bloomberg | Getty Images
US states eagerly await billions in federal aid to fund their vaccine distribution plans, which are currently being held in Washington and under veto threat by the president Donald Trump.
After weeks of silence about the legislation, outgoing President Washington shocked Tuesday night by calling the bill a “disgrace” and pushing lawmakers to raise $ 600 direct payments to $ 2,000. The package also includes more than $ 8 billion to fund state vaccine distribution programs, which are now on hiatus as House Democrats fight to meet Trump’s demands.
“We are concerned because it is money we need in the spring. It is now the end of December,” said Adriane Casalotti, the top lobbyist at the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
Now that the first doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and Modern making way for the arms of the first few million Americans, public health experts are worried about how they will pay for the historic vaccination campaign. Time is of the essence – the United States will provide doses to all 331 million Americans this summer.
Trump’s attacks hold up to $ 8.75 billion in desperate need of funding, which states thought they should help pay for vaccine distribution, Drs. Marcus Plescia, Chief Medical Officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, in a telephone interview.
“It’s one of the things where we started celebrating too early,” he said, adding that his organization has been pushing for funding for vaccine distribution for several months.
Congress’s approval of the funding “came a little late in the game, but I think it’s going to be fine. It’s getting to where it needs to come in time,” he said. “If this is delayed further, it will be a problem.”
Vaccine distribution efforts will require additional staff for vaccination clinics, adequate resources to safely store doses at ultra-low temperatures, needles and other critical supplies, and improved communication efforts to convince people of drug safety, among other costs, experts say. To fund their pandemic reactions, the country’s states and counties have already had to cut spending and suspend capital infrastructure projects to help balance their budgets, experts said.
“We have two vaccines that are approved for use that are out in the field, and yet we still have no money for distribution,” Casalotti said. “Every minute delay affects how many people can get the vaccine and when, so we urge the president to sign the bill as soon as possible.”
So far, immunization efforts have been slow. About 9.5 million doses are distributed and just over 1 million people in the United States have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine from Wednesday morning according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about 19 million doses shy of previous forecasts for December, leaving government officials a little more than a week – approx. 8 days – to try to close this gap.
“Exactly how fast the start-up of vaccinations, shots in the arms, is slower than we thought it would be,” said President Donald Trump’s coronavirus vaccinezar, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, to reporters during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “And as I told you earlier, we are here to help states accelerate properly,” he said, adding that the target of 20 million vaccinations “is unlikely to be met.”
The vaccines have reached a central point in the country’s response to the pandemic. New cases of coronavirus in the United States have risen to a weekly average of 212,142 cases each day, and the virus now kills more than 2,669 people daily on average, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide an additional $ 227 million to 64 states and jurisdictions for vaccine preparedness and response efforts, bringing the federal government’s total contribution to nearly $ 430 million so far. But states say they need billions of dollars, not millions, to distribute the shots.
While every dollar helps, the money from HHS is “a drop in the bucket” compared to what will be needed to fund the comprehensive vaccination plans that states have put forward, Casalotti said. For several months, state and local health departments have been urging Congress to provide $ 8.4 billion in additional funding to carry out their vaccine distribution plans, which were finalized and submitted to the CDC in October.
The Trump administration proposed $ 6 billion. $ In funding to states, but Congress agreed with the states and allocated $ 8.75 billion. $ For state vaccine plans in the latest coronavirus virus relief package. Even then, additional funding may be needed next year for widespread vaccination, Casalotti said.
“We are really considering this as a hopeful sign, but a payout,” Casalotti said. A spokesman for HHS did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
U.S. officials said Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s vaccination program, will pick up some of the costs. The United States covers the cost of delivering the doses and will also provide kits with auxiliary consumables for administering the vaccinations, including needles, syringes, diluent and other supplies.
However, some supplies do not come from the federal government, including hand cleaning and gloves. Other expenses, such as tents or staff to arrange drive-thru vaccine clinics, must be covered by the states, said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers or AIM, which represents state health officials leading vaccination planning. .
“Staffing is really critical, because in order to roll this out for all Americans in a short amount of time – in half a year – to get everyone who wants to be vaccinated, you really need all hands on deck,” Hannan said.
States also need money to sign up more providers to offer the shots, but the process takes longer than expected because some health departments do not have staff to answer their questions and verify their credentials, she said.
“I think it is more concerned about the wider scale, but we could also see delays in phase 1 if there is a need for public health to be vaccinated and they are not able to hire vaccinators,” Hannan said.
The bill for vaccination programs may grow larger as time goes on and more people become more reluctant with vaccine safety, requiring greater outreach to these communities, said Casalotti of the county and city health officials group. If the dependence on the Pfizer vaccine becomes greater than on others, there will also be additional costs associated with storing the doses at ultra-cold temperatures.
“All this work would have been hard in advance in itself to try to scale up the biggest mass vaccination campaign we have ever tried,” Casalotti said. “You are doing all this now in a shortened time frame with very few resources, while also fighting a pandemic.”
The funding, so far distributed by HHS, has gone directly to 64 jurisdictions, which include the 50 states, territories and a few of the country’s largest cities. When it comes to most counties, how much funding they receive depends on whether the money seeps down to them, which does not always happen, said Blaire Bryant, a lobbyist specializing in health issues at the National Association of Counties.
“It’s a big problem for us because none of our county health departments really see those funds,” Bryant said.
States, counties and local governments have already had to make cuts in other programs to meet revenue losses from their Covid-19 response, said Teryn Zmuda, chief economist at the county group. An August report from the group indicated that the country’s counties will see a $ 30 billion gap in unbudgeted Covid-19 response spending by the end of the 2021 fiscal year.
“We are seeing a lot of cuts in investment projects, economic development and repair of investment infrastructure,” said Zmuda. “So these projects, which can be considered less important or secondary to public health, see cuts to meet what lies ahead.”