As the push to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 continues, President Joe Biden's administration has set a new goal: getting 70% of adults at least one vaccine dose, and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated, by July 4.
The plan to achieve this goal is to shift focus to accessibility. Gone will be the days of scrambling online to find a highly sought-after vaccine appointment. Instead, pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy program are gearing up to offer same-day and walk-in vaccinations, which could prove useful if studies find the vaccines require a booster shot six months after a second dose.
The U.S. will also redirect resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish more mobile and pop-up vaccination clinics, and will ship new allocations of the vaccine to rural health clinics.
As part of the plan, there will be a push to begin vaccinating the nation's adolescents as soon as a vaccine gets authorization for that age group from the Food and Drug Administration and is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That particular effort is intended to ensure adolescents are vaccinated by the beginning of the school year in the fall, and will entail more vaccines being available in more places, with a focus on pediatricians and family physicians.
WHAT'S THE IMPACT?
The plan calls for a reallocation of a significant amount of funds, including $250 million slated to go to community-based organizations so they can hire workers to increase vaccine access for underserved communities, and more than $130 million to organizations working to improve vaccine education in those communities.
That funding is meant to support organizations with deep relationships and a long track record of commitment to support racial and ethnic minorities, rural populations and people with disabilities, including both national and community-level organizations.
Activities will include:
- developing and disseminating accessible educational materials and toolkits.
- identifying barriers to vaccine uptake and opportunities for improving vaccination availability, accessibility and acceptability.
- identifying and equipping messengers through efforts like the COVID-19 Community Corps.
- building partnerships between vaccination providers and the community to increase opportunities for vaccination.
At the same time, roughly $250 million will go to state and large-scale municipal governments to enact strategic outreach efforts to increase uptake, and more than $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding will be redirected to about 4,600 rural health clinics to support rural outreach.
This funding will be used to assist rural residents in accessing vaccinations, as well as education and outreach efforts around the benefits.
Meanwhile, the Health Resources and Services Administration will dole out roughly $860 million in American Rescue Plan funding to help rural providers expand their testing and mitigation programs with an eye toward halting community transmission of the virus.
HRSA will provide up to $100,000 per clinic to each of the 4,600 federally designated rural health clinics, and up to $230,000 per hospital to 1,730 small rural hospitals, to increase COVID-19 testing, expand access to testing in rural communities, and broaden efforts to respond to and mitigate the spread of the virus in ways that are tailored to a community's specific needs.
THE LARGER TREND
Nationally, vaccination efforts are trending in the right direction. As of April 15, the seven-day average number of COVID-19 vaccinations administered daily reached 3.3 million, a 10.3% increase from the previous week's average, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That translates to about 198.3 million total vaccine doses administered. Overall, almost 126 million Americans (37.9% of the U.S. population) have received at least one dose, while roughly 78.5 million (23.6%) have received both doses.
Yet vaccine hesitancy among many Americans is on the rise and threatening the goal of herd immunity, in which a critical mass of the population becomes inoculated and slows the spread of pathogens.
The vaccine push received a jolt last week as Walgreens announced it will activate multiple mobile clinics in Chicago. The traveling mobile clinics will focus on bringing COVID-19 vaccines directly to underserved communities and those with barriers to accessing the vaccine. Over the next two months, additional mobile clinics will make stops in a number of locations across the country.