Biden administration for the delivery of doses of Covid vaccine to community health centers

People are waiting in front of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Center at the Kedren Community Health Center on January 28, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

The White House will begin shipping doses of Covid-19 vaccines directly to federally qualified community health centers next week to expand access to traditionally malnourished communities, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced Tuesday.

Along with other initiatives, such as federally-sponsored mass vaccination sites and mobile clinics, the new program aims to ensure fairness in the introduction of vaccines, Zients said.

“Fairness is key to our strategy to be able to leave this epidemic behind, and fairness means reaching everyone, especially those living in underperforming and rural communities,” Zients said. “But we can’t do this effectively at the federal level without our state and local partners making the same commitment to equity.”

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair of the White House Covid-19 Health Equity Working Group, noted that there are more than 1,300 community health centers nationwide that serve nearly 30 million people.

“Two-thirds of their patients live at or below the federal poverty line, and 60% of patients in community health centers identify themselves as racial or ethnic minorities,” he noted. “Capital here is our North Star. This effort, which focuses on direct benefits to community health centers, is actually about connecting with hard-to-reach populations across the country.”

During the introduction of the program, the White House plans to send rations to at least one center in each state, with 1 million distributed among 250 centers in the coming weeks, Nunez-Smith said. He noted that the government is simultaneously working to increase public confidence in vaccines, “which we know are lower than the national average in underperforming communities.”

The announcement of the community health center program comes after the launch of the retail pharmacy program, during which the federal government will begin sending doses directly to a few hundred pharmacies across the country. Nunez-Smith said the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, working with participating pharmacy companies, will ensure they reach “socially vulnerable areas.”

The administration has also announced that it will once again increase the number of weekly doses sent to states. The federal government now sends 11 million doses to states every week, compared to 8.6 million sent three weeks ago, Zients said.

“This will increase vaccine supply by a total of 28% over the first three weeks,” he said.

Asked if there is an inevitable compromise between equal proportions and speeds of vaccines, Zients said, “I do not accept this assumption at all.”

“I think we can do this in a fair, equitable and efficient way,” he said. “So efficiency and fairness are both central to what we do, and I don’t see a compromise between the two. I think they’re wearing gloves.”

Confidence in the vaccine has increased among adult Americans, but some demographics have shown greater hesitation over the drugs than others, according to a new CDC released Tuesday. Nearly half of adult Americans surveyed in December said they were absolutely certain or very likely to be vaccinated against Covid-19, an increase from the September responses.

Younger adults, women, black people, people living in the suburbs or the countryside, and those with lower levels of education were more likely to say they did not want to be vaccinated. Those on lower incomes and those without health insurance also tended to say they did not intend to get vaccinated, the researchers said.

A separate CDC study, published on February 1, found that the majority of nearly 13 million people shot at least one Covid-19 vaccine in the first month of drug distribution in women 50 years of age or older, probably non-Hispanic and White. Just over half of the cases were identified by species.

“Fuller transmission of data on racial and ethnic origin at the provider and jurisdiction level is critical to ensure rapid detection and response to potential variations in COVID-19 vaccination,” the researchers said.