Hospital group presses Trump administration for ongoing federal assist with vaccine distribution
Seniors 65 years and older wait in line at the Sarasota Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic in Sarasota, Florida, the United States, Jan. 4, 2021.
Octavio Jones | Reuters
The American Hospital Association on Thursday urged Health Secretary Alex Azar to provide more support and coordination for the federal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. The slow rollout has raised questions about how quickly they can vaccinate the public.
The group, which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals and health systems across the country, said the rollout “raised concerns about whether the task of vaccinating everyone who is able to take the vaccine will come as soon as it can it was suggested by the federal leaders “. According to a letter sent Thursday to Azar, the secretary of the Ministry of Health and Human Services.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 17.2 million doses of vaccine had been distributed as of Wednesday, but in fact just over 5.3 million doses had been given. This is nowhere near the targets previously set by federal officials to vaccinate 20 million people in December.
Richard Pollack, CEO of the AHA, said in the letter to Azar that the vaccine’s slow initial rollout casts doubt on whether the country will be able to vaccinate enough Americans to achieve herd immunity by the summer. In the first few weeks of the rollout, unforeseen issues arose, he added, calling on Azar to provide more leadership and coordination between states to address the issues.
Representatives from HHS have not returned CNBC’s request for comment.
According to Pollack, some hospitals have received fewer doses than requested, while others have received more than they need “with no explanation for this mismatch”. Pollack added that other differences between the state’s plans are also creating headaches for hospitals and adding to the complexity of the massive vaccination campaign.
“We hear from hospitals and health systems that serve more than one state that it is difficult to manage vaccine distribution when their patients live in jurisdictions with different rules about which patients are prioritized and who have different levels of priority,” wrote Pollack . “As this rollout is evolving rapidly, it is absolutely essential that effective situational real-time guidance is provided at the national level.”
He urged Azar and HHS to communicate more frequently and clearly with state, local, and hospital officials.
And many hospitals across the country are currently overwhelmed with treating Covid-19 patients. Pollack says hospitals cannot vaccinate the public without help. He said hospitals suffer from staff shortages and limited protective equipment such as masks and gloves. Pollack asked for more details about the government’s plan to include pharmacy chains in the wider vaccine rollout.
Pollack stressed that the aim of the vaccination campaign is to achieve herd immunity and bring the outbreak under control. By some estimates, that could be around 246 million Americans, or around 75% of the population.
“That would mean vaccinating 1.8 million people a day between January 15 and May 31, including weekends and holidays,” wrote Pollack of the attempt to vaccinate 246 million Americans by the summer. “There are currently 64 different micro-plans being developed by states, some major cities, and other jurisdictions [HHS] assess whether these plans are overall able to achieve this level of vaccination? “