Congressional parentheses for Biden’s national coronavirus strategy

WASHINGTON (AP) – Congress prepares President-elect Joe Biden to go beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and a national strategy should be developed to combat the epidemic and to disseminate possible vaccines.

The approach of the incoming administration reflects Democrats ’belief that a more comprehensive plan is needed, some of which are outlined in the House’s $ 2 trillion coronavirus subsidy bill to keep the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending, but agree that more funding is needed. As the nation is at the forefront, but a vaccine is in sight, complicated logistics vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans increases the stakes of the main business.

“We have an incredible challenge on hand,” said Senator Patty Murray, of Washington State, who is approaching the anniversary of the first reported viral event. last January.

A vaccine can only go that far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. “A vaccine can sit on a shelf. We’re talking about vaccination. “- He told.

As Congress considers a new round of relief for COVID-19, federal officials say vaccine doses could begin within a day of approval by the Food and Drug Administration. There are three pharmaceutical companies – Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – early results were reported. But the introduction must face a multitude of state plans, a transforming White House, and a possible backlash from vaccination skeptics, despite the fact that nearly 260,000 people die in the United States..

Biden said on Tuesday on NBC’s “Night News with Lester Death” that his team began a meeting with White House COVID-19 officials on how to “get a vaccine that will be given to someone who can get it”.

Democrats have warned that the Trump administration is delayed in giving Biden’s team access to transitional materials wasted precious time.

States submitted draft vaccination plan documents last month, but not all of them published the full plan. Capitol Hill private briefings held by Warp Speed ​​Operation officials, due to federal vaccination efforts, some lawmakers smoked last week on what they called a lack of coordination with Biden’s camp.

Health and Human Resources Secretary Alex Azar said on Tuesday that his department began working with Biden staff “immediately” after the General Services Directorate officially recognized the election results..

Azar said he wants to ensure that Biden’s transition “pays attention to the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saves lives in this COVID-19 epidemic”.

From the outset, the pandemic questioned and reflected both sides ’attitudes toward the public health crisis, and the Trump administration outsourced many decisions to states and Democrats that called for a more nationalized approach.

Republicans largely reject $ 2 trillion house bill from Democrats in Congress as excessive. Rather, they favor their own $ 500 billion senate efforts, saying states and cities can benefit from funding from previous aid legislation. The Democrats in the Senate have twice insufficiently blocked this bill.

Biden’s campaign required $ 25 billion in vaccinations to “guarantee it reaches all American people, free of charge”. This is similar to the amount in the House and Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously prescribed that vaccinations be free. Due to a stalemate in recent legislation, it is uncertain whether states will receive the necessary resources once vaccines are approved by the FDA.

During a conference with the governors this week, Azar and other health officials raised a number of issues. Governors have asked for guidance on which populations should prioritize vaccination and whether a list of available pharmacies is available to administer the two-dose dosing schedule, according to a call from the office of Democratic Governor Jay Inslee in Washington.

Blaire Bryant, who oversees health policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for publicly communicating vaccine information and funding for vaccination fairness is vital.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” he said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”

He said states have access to previously approved funding, but money-deficient local governments have been reluctant to raise the remaining dollars for vaccinations. He is robbing Peter to pay Paul, he said.

As Congress discusses funding, at least two Republican senators will participate in vaccine trials in order to build trust with federal efforts among skeptical Americans.

Senator Rob Portman said in a statement from R-Ohio that he hoped his participation would “reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations”.

Senator Steve Daines of Montana, who is involved in the Pfizer investigations, on Tuesday asked Centers for Disease Prevention and Control to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those living in his state.

In a letter to the CDC, Daines said it would be “critical” to ensure access to frontal health care and basic workers, as well as older adults and people with health conditions.

Other lawmakers have nevertheless allayed concerns. Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution to be “on track” by the time Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

Murray, as the chief Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, expressed concern this summer as he said the Trump administration had outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to states.

He produced a 19-page document calling for a $ 25 billion vaccination program with supply chains, hired staff, recovery clinics and other ways to provide free vaccinations. He warned the Trump administration of a “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with states.

Biden and Murray have since talked about his approach, which is based on the input of Biden’s team of health professionals. Former surgeon Vivek Murthy is a member of Biden’s COVID-19 working group, informed Senate Democrats the week after the election.

Murray likened vaccination efforts to sending a man to the moon or waging a world war. He said every joining American should say, “It’s an epidemic, and I’m doing everything I can to get the country out of it.”


Associate press writers Candice Choi of New York and Rachel La Corte of Olympia, Washington, contributed to the report.