Developing a COVID-19 Vaccine is Only Half the Battle
Apr 08, 2020
Rising cases of COVID-19 across the country have many people asking the same question: where’s the vaccine? Experts have suggested a vaccine may be 12 to 18 months away, an optimistic timeline given the intense scrutiny vaccines undergo prior to approval. Once approved, additional questions such as how will the vaccine be distributed and who will be prioritized to receive the vaccine will soon follow. By planning for a vaccine now, our country can be better prepared to quickly protect everyone in the U.S. from this deadly pandemic.
Vaccinate Your Family’s (VYF) fourth annual State of the ImmUnion (SOTI) report offers some solutions Congress can immediately undertake in order to ensure quicker availability of the vaccine. Unfortunately, many children and adults are unable to access vaccines that are currently recommended to protect against dangerous diseases such as measles, whooping cough, hepatitis A and B, and flu. We often see these disparities break out along sociodemographic lines, namely income level, rural areas, and racial and ethnic groups.
We recommend that Congress immediately:
- Increase the federal appropriations to the CDC, states, large cities, territories and tribes. The coronavirus stimulus packages to-date have provided critical funding for the immediate emergency. We must now begin thinking about funding the immunization response. Health departments and other facilities will need funds to hire more staff to distribute and administer vaccines as well as to purchase vaccine.
- Ensure all children enrolled in state CHIP programs are eligible for vaccines through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. This will minimize confusion and bureaucracy when efficiency is most needed.
- Support healthcare payment measures that expand access and protect first dollar coverage, including the Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act (S. 1872/H.R. 5076). While the coronavirus vaccine will be included in Medicare Part B, which offers vaccines at no cost to seniors, this legislation includes other important items such as better education on available vaccines.
- Increase efforts to educate communities and individuals, including by supporting the VACCINES Act of 2019 (H.R. 2862), which authorizes CDC to fund local responses to communities who are hesitant about vaccinating. Unfortunately, there are still some who believe coronavirus is a conspiracy or somehow made up to increase vaccination rates for other diseases. We must help these individuals and communities understand the vital importance of vaccinating against this and other diseases. It is a sad fact that communities recovering from a crisis like natural disasters or pandemics are often more risk for measles outbreaks because families fall behind on well child visits for their children.
In addition to policy recommendations, the State of the ImmUnion report also offers an overview of the intense monitoring process vaccines undergo, even post-licensure, to ensure their safety and efficacy. After the 12 to 18 month development process, four separate systems will continue to make sure the COVID-19 vaccine is doing its job in preventing disease without causing undue harm.
Making a vaccine is not easy. Distributing a vaccine to everyone within the U.S. is not easy. But, with a little planning in the months we have, we can protect more people, more quickly.
Visit the Vaccinate Your Family website for more information on vaccines and the diseases they prevent.
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