DENVER, Colo. — Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and John Hickenlooper (D) joined 43 Senate Democrats in demanding the Trump Administration take immediate action to fix the significant Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine distribution failures as cases continue to climb. In a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Bennet, Hickenlooper, and the senators call out the administration’s failure to develop and implement a comprehensive national vaccine plan despite having months to do so.
For months, Senate Democrats have been imploring the Trump Administration to work and communicate with state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, vaccine and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) manufacturers, public health experts, and health care providers to develop a plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration. These groups have been pleading for clear guidance and financial resources.
In their letter, Bennet, Hickenlooper, and their colleagues underscore that the administration must have a plan that provides guidance and best practices on taking the vaccine from distribution to administration and provides all necessary resources to state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments and other jurisdictions. The plan must also account for the significant challenges jurisdictions face in scaling up their workforces and ensure vaccine distribution efforts combat health inequities. Additionally, the administration must launch a massive public facing campaign to promote vaccine confidence and help people understand where, when, and how to get vaccinated. Bennet, Hickenlooper, and the senators emphasize that the Trump Administration must engage with states to proactively identify and address challenges to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are quickly and equitably distributed and administered across the country.
“The Trump Administration must act to correct the lack of transparency and communication from the federal government around COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration. Over the first two weeks of vaccine distribution, more than a dozen states found their actual vaccine allocations fell significantly below initial OWS allocation forecasts. For several days, OWS denied these discrepancies, before ultimately admitting officials had provided states with flawed numbers,” wrote Bennet, Hickenlooper, and the senators. “Local health departments are largely excluded from planning calls with OWS and CDC, even though they often ultimately receive and administer vaccines.”
They continued: “A failure to plan strategically and proactively for vaccine distribution means communities of color, residents of congregate care facilities, rural communities, and other populations disproportionately at-risk will remain neglected in our pandemic response. This is especially true for the millions of health care workers of color who provide the daily care and support for residents of congregate care settings and who provide home health care. We have seen the toll this pandemic has taken on vulnerable communities, and the egregious health disparities that have resulted from this pandemic, and we must act to combat these inequities.”
In November, Bennet urged Congressional leadership to prioritize funding for vaccine distribution efforts to ensure swift and equitable distribution. In April, Bennet and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced legislation to establish a national Health Force, which would recruit, train, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans to expand the country’s public health workforce for the COVID-19 response, including helping with vaccine distribution.
In addition to Bennet and Hickenlooper, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
The text of the letter is available HERE.