Modern Healthcare - Congress
Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) Success of a COVID-19 vaccine requires proper planning for equitable distribution.
Iam cautiously optimistic about the current pace of COVID-19 vaccine development and encouraged that a number of drug companies are seeing promising results. Current projections show that we may begin vaccinating the public by the end of this year or early 2021, but it will take hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to effectively curb this virus.
Not all of those doses will be available at once, so difficult decisions will have to be made regarding how to prioritize distribution. That is why the Trump administration must develop a national COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan now.
This plan must take a public health approach with the goals of rapidly ending the pandemic and saving the most lives. To reach these goals, the plan must be fair and effective and prioritize those at highest risk of getting infected and dying from this disease.
It is no secret that mistakes were made by the administration—to put it lightly—in the production and distribution of vital supplies responding to this public health crisis. More than six months into this pandemic, accessing COVID-19 testing and getting timely results are still huge problems in many parts of the country. In many areas, healthcare providers who are risking their lives to take care of COVID-19 patients still do not have enough personal protective equipment and are unable to receive a COVID-19 test or timely results, while low-risk, non-essential workers, like professional athletes, have been able to receive routine rapid testing. Low-risk residents in affluent communities can often get tests after returning from vacation while higher-risk farmworkers who are going to work every day to maintain our food supply chain cannot.
We cannot repeat these grave mistakes in our distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The administration has a chance to get this right by developing a distribution plan that prioritizes health equity.
As study after study has shown, this disease hits certain populations harder than others. Front-line healthcare providers, seniors (particularly those in skilled-nursing facilities), individuals with underlying illnesses at any age, essential workers who cannot work from home, and communities of color are at highest risk of becoming infected, getting severely sick, and dying from COVID-19.
That is why the administration must aggressively and immediately pursue coordinated, strategic vaccine distribution efforts that prioritize these individuals and are based on science and public health expertise. We will not get this pandemic fully under control in our country if it’s not under control for every community, especially those at highest risk for getting and spreading COVID-19.
Health equity must be a priority—not an afterthought—in the national allocation and distribution plan for a COVID vaccine.
The administration’s plan must address: What principles will guide the prioritization of vaccine distribution? What factors are being taken into account in formulating the vaccine distribution plan? How will the amount, timeline and location of distribution reflect these priorities? And then how and when will the amount, timeline and location of vaccine distribution be made transparent to the public?
We cannot wait until the vaccine is ready to start thinking about distribution objectives. The time is now to create a nationwide plan that will save the most lives and end the pandemic as quickly as possible by prioritizing vulnerable populations at highest risk of getting infected and dying from COVID-19, rather than leaving it up to the highest bidder or prioritizing wealthier, low-risk populations.
Without this approach, the administration will exacerbate health disparities, prolong the pandemic, put more lives at risk and worsen the health of our economy.
Health equity must be a priority—not an afterthought—in the national allocation and distribution plan for a COVID vaccine.”