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Biden administration to send Covid vaccine doses directly to community health sites

'Equitably means reaching everyone, particularly those in underserved or rural communities,' Jeffrey Zients says

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Wednesday 10 February 2021 13:16 GMT

The Biden administration has announced it will send Covid-19 vaccine doses directly to community health sites in an effort to promote equitable distribution to Americans.

The new federal programme, entitled the Federally Qualified Health Centre Programme, was announced by Joe Biden's coronavirus czar Jeffrey Zients and Marcella Nunez-Smith, who leads the White House's Health Equity Task Force, on Tuesday.

"Equitably means reaching everyone, particularly those in underserved or rural communities," Mr Zients said.

Starting as early as 15 February, selected community health sites will receive doses and be able to vaccinate residents. At least one site in each state will receive vaccine doses in the initial phase, with the programme later expanding to 250 locations.

"In our country, there are more than 1,300 community health centres ... serving over 30 million people," Ms Nunez-Smith said. About two-thirds of the population these centres serve live at or below the poverty line, and 60 per cent identify within a minority group, she added.

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About one million vaccine doses will be sent to these centres each week – 500,000 which will be used for first doses and 500,000 second doses.

"Equity is our North Star here," Ms Nunez-Smith said.

Black and Latino Americans have been vaccinated at disproportionately lower rates compared to White Americans, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation of 17 states. This despite these minority groups contracting and dying from Covid-19 at a higher rate in a majority of the reviewed states. 

The other 33 states provided little to no information about vaccine allocation based on race. 

Mr Biden creating a Health Equity Task Force was one step in his national coronavirus plan to address the pandemic. The community health centres would work to bridge the gap of underserved communities having access to the Covid-19 vaccine. 

This announcement comes as the first pharmacies will receive vaccine doses on 11 February, another federal government programme to increase access to the jab. Initially about 6,500 pharmacies will receive vaccine doses to give out to residents. Eligibility for these doses will defer state to state.

The Biden administration has also increased the amount of vaccine doses the government sends out to states each week.

Last week the administration increased the amount to 10.5 million vaccine doses per week. Mr Zients then announced on Tuesday that a total of 11 million doses would be shipped out next week, increasing the allotment by about 5 per cent.

When Mr Biden took office in January, the federal government was shipping about 8.5 million vaccine doses to states. His administration increased this amount by 28 per cent in the beginning weeks of office in an effort to administer at least 100 million vaccine doses in the first 100 days.

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