For Immediate Release: February 11, 2021
Contact: Amy Simmons Farber, 202 309 0338
The White House has announced next week’s launch of the Federally Qualified Health Center Vaccine program that will provide more vaccines for Community Health Centers as part of a broader effort to reach underserved and vulnerable populations. The program will be phased in, with the first centers able to start ordering vaccines as early as the week of February 15. The initial phase will include at least one Community Health Center in each state, expanding to 250 centers in the coming weeks, according to the White House. These new steps aim to meet the President’s goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and ensure that vaccines are administered equitably.
“Equity is our north star here,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair of the White House Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force, in a briefing to announce the vaccine program. “This effort to focus on direct allocation to the Community Health Centers really is about connecting with those hard-to-reach populations across the country. So this includes people who are experiencing homelessness, you know, agricultural and migrant workers, residents of public housing, and those with limited English proficiency. And as always, we plan to be very inclusive across jurisdictions. So in this initial phase, we will include at least one community health center in each state and territory.”
“Community Health Centers deeply appreciate the recognition by the White House Coronavirus Task Force of their role in targeting populations that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Tom Van Coverden, President and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “Health centers have been at the forefront of this fight for nearly a year, testing and caring for millions of vulnerable Americans. Vaccination efforts against COVID-19 have been underway at many health centers since late December.”
Further, he said: “While our health centers are in the locations where need is greatest and we have a proven and trusted track record in reaching people most vulnerable, there is an urgent need for sustained resources, supplies, and predictability of vaccine doses to effectively plan and reach out to these special populations. A direct and consistent allocation of vaccine doses to health centers will certainly go a long way toward achieving equity.”
The announcement from the Biden Administration did not yet identify which health centers are to receive the first allocations of the vaccine. To lay the groundwork, lawmakers are taking initial steps to support health centers as they prepare to expand their efforts on the ground. 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.
Health centers, which care for nearly 30 million people nationwide, have been navigating enormous financial pressures since the pandemic began. Nevertheless, they have tested more than 8 million patients and helped divert non-acute COVID cases from overwhelmed hospitals grappling with another surge of the virus across the nation.
Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured.