The US’ Inclusive Vaccine Rollout Plan

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

February 27, 2021

On his first day in office, US President Joe Biden announced the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, and called on Congress to support this initiative. This plan includes mounting a national vaccination program, safe reopening of schools, delivering immediate relief to working families, and supporting struggling communities that have been severely impacted by the pandemic. The rescue plan will help address the multipronged crises the nation is faced with.

At Horasis, we are of the strong belief that the world now stands at a crossroad where prior policy frameworks must be reconsidered. There is pressing need to cast differences aside and collaborate with one another and leverage complementary strengths. In light of this, we are organizing the upcoming ‘Horasis Extraordinary Meeting on the United States of America’ on 18 March 2021. This virtual event will host several panels with influencers from the fields of politics, business, media and academia. They will deliberate on current global problems, and attempt to find sustainable solutions for a better future.

The Rollout

At the time of writing, the US had registered over 27 million confirmed cases and over 480,000 deaths due to COVID-19. The new year only witnessed further increases in active cases, and in several communities across the country, the pandemic seemed to have intensified with the detection of new strains of the virus. And for the new US president, ensuring that the threat of the virus does not spiral out of control, has been paramount.

On 20 January 2021, President Biden announced an initiative to mount a national vaccination program. He called on Congress to provide $160 billion in funding to take forward this whole-of-government COVID-19 response plan.

This comprehensive plan will include a $20 billion fund to enable launching of community vaccination centers and to deploy mobile vaccination units across the country. Hard-hit communities and people, regardless of their immigration status, will receive the vaccine free-of-charge without any cost-sharing.

COVID-19 testing will also be scaled up with the help of $50 billion in investments to purchase rapid testing kits, expand lab testing capacities, and strengthen schools and local governments to conduct regular testing protocols.

To help the vaccine reach all US residents, the national program is also proposing to fund 100,000 public health worker roles. This will greatly enhance the nation’s fight against COVID-19 by identifying and managing potential spikes in cases in certain communities. The national vaccination program also envisages increased funding for the development of a robust surveillance system to track mutations of the virus and contain them.

Additionally, President Biden’s plan also calls for an investment of $30 billion into the Disaster Relief Fund. This will help manufacture and deploy sufficient supplies and protective gear to states, local governments, tribes, and the National Guard.

American Businesses and People

Vulnerable populations residing in underserved communities are the worst affected. President Biden’s recovery plan will ensure equitable distribution of vaccines while expanding healthcare services for these underserved populations. The plan also ensures that individuals serving their time in US prisons have equal access to medical kits and vaccines.

The government is also providing a maximum paid leave benefit of $1,400 per-week for eligible workers. This provision now covers employees of companies with over 500 and less than 50 employees. In addition, it is also being extended to two million federal workers until end-September.

Schools are being provided an emergency funding of $170 billion. This funding will help them reopen safely while adhering to public health protocols.

Challenges Must be Overcome

President Biden’s plan seeks to assist all US residents without prejudice and with genuine regard for all. But there are challenges to this lofty plan that must be overcome. The first hurdle is convincing Congress to sanction these funds. At present, the Democrats command the majority in the house. But it’s equally important for President Biden to iron out differences with the Republicans. An old adage goes “A house divided against itself cannot stand”, and metaphorical as this may seem, the US Senate must work together at this critical juncture.

Additionally, a lack of communication between the federal and state and local governments may pose serious ambiguity for local health departments in terms of distribution and administration of vaccinations.

We are in this Together

President Biden’s recovery plan ticks all the boxes in being inclusive and effective. In this endeavor, the US must also ensure that vaccines are available at subsidized rates and in a timely manner for less affluent nations. To ensure a complete global recovery, developed nations must look beyond their own geographical borders and ensure new COVID-19 strains are promptly identified and contained.

Governments, businesses and key stakeholders will need to come together and take cognizance of the importance of ensuring fair and equitable vaccine access to all. Only then can these ambitious pandemic response plans be said to have borne fruit.

Photo Caption: A frontline healthcare worker receives his COVID-19 vaccine shot in New Jersey.