State Health Officials Testify COVID-19 Vaccine Program Speed is Improving, Limited by Supply
February 02, 2021
ARLINGTON, VA—Today, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) members and public health leaders testified before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Each panelist responded to questions from members of Congress in the hearing “No Time to Lose: Solutions to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations in the States.”
During their testimony, public health officials expressed the need for a strong partnership with the federal government as they continue to scale up COVID-19 vaccinations. A major improvement in the last week has been Biden Administration moves to share information about available supply. Vaccine supply is limiting the speed of vaccination efforts in states.
“The main ask we have now is for more doses and greater predictability in the federal supply, so that we can continue to execute the state’s vaccine distribution plan. We would welcome at least 300,000 doses a week under our current system,” says Jill Hunsaker Ryan, MPH, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“Illinois and other states have already established much of the necessary infrastructure to increase the pace of vaccination. What we need now is for our federal partners to improve vaccine availability and respond with solutions to practical, operational issues,” says Ngozi Ezike, MD, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “We need forward-looking, timely, and consistent communication and guidance on distribution and administration.”
“It is important that the federal government and states move forward with vaccinations expeditiously, without compromising equity,” says Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.” Michigan is implementing a strategy that assures vaccine is accessible to marginalized populations and prioritizes a robust communications and engagement effort to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.”
Health officials stressed the need for continued communication from the federal government on when to expect vaccine shipments--and how many they can expect. Additional concerns including balancing vaccine speed while assuring those in priority groups get it early. States are confident that as they gain more experience with the vaccine program and are able to share best practices among states and federal health officials, distribution will become even more efficient in the next several weeks.
For more information and to read the state health officials’ testimony, visit the committee’s website.
ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.