Pallone & DeGette Demand Answers from Trump Administration on a National COVID-19 Vaccine Plan
Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent a second oversight letter to the Trump Administration, writing to White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar today requesting information on the development of a national COVID-19 vaccine plan. The letter follows a May 21 letter, where the Committee leaders requested critical information about the Administration’s vaccine planning efforts including a Committee briefing on Operation Warp Speed (OWS) by June 4, 2020. More than two months later, the Trump Administration has not responded.
“As the pursuit for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine moves forward, we are concerned that the Trump Administration has yet to finalize and release a national COVID-19 vaccine plan,” the Committee leaders wrote. “Alarmingly, in the absence of a comprehensive plan, the Administration appears to be making decisions without the input of public health partners or consideration for the existing infrastructure the nation has long relied upon for the allocation, distribution, and tracking of vaccines. While the Administration has awarded billions of dollars for the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, Congress, key public health stakeholders, and the American people have yet to be informed about how the Administration intends to ensure the equitable distribution of a vaccine once it is available.”
According to a recent press report the, “Nationwide distribution of any coronavirus vaccine will be a ‘joint venture’ between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], which typically oversees vaccine allocation, and the Department of Defense.” The report goes on to say, “The plan breaks with the longstanding precedent that CDC distributes vaccines during major outbreaks…through a centralized ordering system for state and local health officials.”
In addition, Pallone and DeGette wrote that they were deeply troubled that despite the lack of a comprehensive plan, the Trump Administration appears to be making decisions that break with historical vaccine distribution efforts without engaging with key public health stakeholders. Pallone and DeGette also expressed concern over the lack of cross-agency coordination on vaccine distribution. The two Committee chairs cite the importance of including CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), as well as state, territorial, tribal, and local health departments in vaccine planning efforts. Each of these entities have longstanding expertise and play a critical role in the planning and implementation of existing immunization programs and prior outbreak vaccination efforts.
“Public health leaders and the existing immunization infrastructure will be vital to the development and implementation of a national COVID-19 vaccine plan,” the Committee leaders continued in their letter to Birx and Azar. “Unfortunately, the Administration’s apparent failure to engage these stakeholders, its continued secrecy surrounding OWS, and its ad hoc announcements in lieu of a comprehensive national plan perpetuates confusion and further threatens public trust in a future COVID-19 vaccine.”
In order to better understand how the Administration is preparing to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine plan and when it will be available to the public, the Committee leaders reasserted their request for a briefing on the full scope of OWS and requested answers to a series of questions from both the May 21 letter and the August 5 letter by August 19, 2020.
To read the full letter, click HERE.