Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) led a group of 27 Senators in requesting that the next coronavirus relief package includes at least $5.6 billion in federal funding to develop and support vaccine distribution. The federal funds could be used for distribution, provider training, public education, and to broaden vaccine access. The letter was also signed by Senator Angus King (I-ME).
“Dedicated scientists and researchers are working around the world to develop a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Senator Collins. “When this treatment becomes available, it is critical that we have the proper infrastructure in place to ensure that all Americans, regardless of age, race, income, or location, are able to access it.”
“This $5.6 billion to enhance vaccine infrastructure is absolutely crucial to ensuring that when a safe, effective vaccine is developed, it can be made broadly available and help those who need it most,” said Senator Reed, who supports a total of $25 billion in emergency federal funding in the next coronavirus relief package for development, production, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Through the Coronavirus Preparedness & Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and other measures, Congress has dedicated more than $6.5 billion in federal funding through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for the development of vaccines, treatments and other products to address COVID-19. The Administration has allocated more than $2.2 billion of this federal funding in deals with five vaccine manufacturers for COVID-19. While this funding is critical, the Senators say it is also important to strengthen the ability of states and local governments to boost their immunization infrastructure.
State and local immunization infrastructure elements include vaccine purchase; storage; handling and safety; provider and community education and outreach; immunization information systems (IIS) or registries; disease surveillance; and outbreak response.
And with public health experts predicting that a second wave of COVID-19 could hit in the fall and winter and overlap with the flu season, the Senators are also seeking a dedicated $2 billion allocation over Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 for flu awareness and education and flu vaccination campaigns to ensure people get vaccinated for the flu: “This effort will be critical to protect people from getting infected with the flu virus, keep them out of the hospital in order to preserve beds for COVID-19 patients, and prevent people from being infected with both viruses simultaneously, which could be even more lethal and overwhelm hospital systems,” the Senators wrote.
In addition to Senators Collins, Reed, and King, the letter is signed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).
Click HERE to read the full letter.