On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing: “Road to Recovery: Ramping Up COVID-19 Vaccines, Testing, and Medical Supply Chain.” Witnesses included: Luciana Borio, M.D., Vice President of In-Q-Tel; Greg Burel, President and Principal Consultant of Hamilton Grace and former Director of the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile; Michael Leavitt, Founder and Chair of Leavitt Partners, Former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Former Governor of Utah; and Julie Morita, M.D., Executive Vice President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former Chicago Health Commissioner.
Members on the panel emphasized that successful development of vaccines must be followed by a clear strategy to improve planning and distribution, as well as bolstering the national supply chain to compensate for rising vaccination rates. In her opening statement, Dr. Morita noted that a strategy to overcome distribution inequities should require states to report vaccination data on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Dr. Morita further noted the problems surrounding vaccine accessibility —especially in rural communities and communities of color—where many lack access to the Internet, time, and transportation and struggle to receive vaccines at the same rate as members of other communities.
In her opening statement, Dr. Borio noted that with the current viral strains from the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa making their way into the United States, restrictions and mask wearing should continue to be encouraged, adding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should also expand genomic research. As the nation continues to move through this pandemic, Governor Leavitt encouraged Members of Congress to begin looking toward future immunization infrastructure issues, highlighting the need for individuals to have access to both digital and paper vaccination records. Greg Burel expressed concern for the fragility of our nation’s supply chain, pointing to the shortage of personal protective equipment and tests early in the pandemic as a source of concern for national security. Members on both sides of the aisle agreed with the panel’s recommendations on the importance of collaboration between local, state, and federal partners; overcoming vaccine hesitancy through constructive dialogue; data sharing and the updating of the public health data system; as well as the continued investment in domestic manufacturing to better secure supplies.
NACCHO has consistently advocated for expanded support to local health departments for vaccine administration, testing, and contact tracing and sufficient PPE for everyone who needs it.