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NCCHCA Applauds White House Plan to Prioritize Community Health Centers as Vaccine Distributors

Friday, February 12, 2021

Contact Leslie Wolcott, NCCHCA

White House Announcement

To Promote Equity, White House Announces Phased Plan to Allocate Vaccines Directly to FQHCs
Declaring that equity is part of a core national strategy to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House Coronavirus Task Force announced a program to directly allocate a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine to select Community Health Centers (CHCs) starting next week. While the program is starting small, with only 25 CHCs in the first week, the initiative will increase access to vaccines to over 250 health centers nationwide within the coming weeks. After that, as supply increases, HRSA and CDC will support vaccination in additional health centers with a goal of eventually distributing 1 million doses each week through this program.

While no NC CHCs are yet included in the earliest part of the rollout, NCCHCA is encouraged by the White House’s message that they value equity in vaccine delivery and CHCs’ critical role in executing that vision. However, we know this will come in stages, and we are excited to continue working with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as they execute their plan to allocate vaccines to providers across NC with a focus on equity as well.

“Community Health Centers are grateful for the White House initiative but know that the urgency of COVID-19 means we must continue working diligently with all partners, especially NCDHHS, to get as many vaccines in arms as quickly as possible, especially to NC’s underserved populations,” said LaShun Huntley, NCCHCA Board Chair and CEO of United Health Centers in Winston Salem, NC.

To learn more about the national health center COVID vaccine program, please visit this link. 

House Relief Bill and Other Announcements

Congress also working to improve support for health centers. The National Association of Community Health Centers writes that “A stimulus package being prepared by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce recommends $7.6 billion for health centers for a number of uses including to plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, and track COVID-19 vaccines and boost efforts to conduct mobile testing or vaccinations in hard-to-reach communities. The proposed funding could also be used to support workforce needs, conduct COVID-19 testing, the purchase of equipment and supplies, and an expansion of health care services and infrastructure. It also grants much-needed flexibility for health centers to cover the costs related to addressing the pandemic starting from the date of the Public Health Emergency declaration on January 31, 2020.”

Other announcements around the massive effort to vaccinate Americans against COVID19 include direct shipments to chain pharmacies and increased shipments to states. NCCHCA is excited about all the ways the nation is tackling this huge challenge, and member Community Health Centers will continue to do what they do best: act as trusted partners to underserved communities, providing primary and other health care services while also being on the front lines of testing and vaccination efforts. This work, though, takes remarkable levels of staffing under great pressure. It also requires resources like additional community locations, PPE, and partnerships with local EMS and law enforcement to manage traffic at these events. Any additional resources allocated to Community Health Centers will be immediately put to best use to address these challenges during the pandemic.

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