Jan. 15, 2021 — President-elect Joseph R. Biden unveiled a plan to jump-start the nation’s faltering COVID-19 vaccine effort that will include establishing mass vaccination sites and mobile vaccine clinics around the country.
Biden has promised that his administration will vaccinate 100 million people during the first 100 days. “I’m convinced we can get it done,” Biden said during a speech Friday. “This is a time to set big goals and to pursue them with courage and conviction because the health of the nation is at stake,” he said.
The $20 billion plan is part of a $400 billion COVID response that’s contained in a proposed $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. If approved by Congress, it would provide vaccines to all Americans with zero cost-sharing.
According to the CDC, 31 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been distributed and 12.2 million have been administered, with 1.3 million of those being given in nursing homes. Some 1.6 million individuals have received 2 doses, and are considered fully vaccinated.
Biden outlined five major goals:
- Work with states to expand eligibility to anyone age 65 or older, and to essential workers, while continuing to vaccinate health care workers.
- Set up thousands of new federally-supported mass vaccination centers at gyms, stadiums and other locations—with 100 by the end of his first month in office– supported by the Federal Emergency Management Administration. FEMA will mobilize thousands of staff and contractors to work with state and local teams and the National Guard.
- Deploy mobile vaccination clinics to hard-to-reach underserved urban and rural areas, relying in part on community-based physicians.
- “Jumpstart” a federal partnership with pharmacies to increase capacity at chains and independent outlets.
- Use the Defense Production Act to help ensure uninterrupted production and delivery of vaccine and vaccine supplies. The aim is to release most vaccine supply when available, while keeping a small reserve to cover unforeseen shortages or delays.
Boosting vaccinations means expanding the workforce, which has been taxed by the ongoing COVID response.
The Biden plan would encourage states to allow additional qualified professionals to give vaccines. Biden said he envisions using military health care professionals, FEMA employees and staff from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to help expand the number of people who can give vaccines. He also said he would seek to allow certain qualified professionals, including retired medical workers who are not licensed to administer vaccines, to do so with appropriate training.
The President-elect also promised “to make sure that state and local officials know how much supply they’ll be getting and when they can expect to get it so they can plan.”
He said officials have said they aren’t getting clear information on vaccine supply.
He said that addressing vaccine hesitancy will also be a priority and will be done through a “massive public education campaign to rebuild that trust, to help people understand what science tells us—that vaccines help reduce the risk of COVID infections,” said Biden. The President-elect also said that “equity is central to our COVID response,” and that people of color, with disabilities, and seniors would not be left behind.
Biden acknowledged that, “We need funding from Congress to make this happen,” and that it “may take many months to get to where we need to be.”