If implemented, Biden’s plan would represent a dramatic shift from the Trump administration’s decentralized, state-by-state approach to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
As COVID-19 continues to surge across the United States and a more contagious variant of the virus threatens to further strain the U.S. healthcare system, President-Elect Joe Biden is calling for a massive federal government mobilization to speed distribution of approved COVID-19 vaccines. With his proposed national vaccination plan, Biden is seeking to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in his administration’s first 100 days. In a pair of speeches on January 14 and 15, 2021, Biden announced his intention to establish thousands of federally supported community vaccination centers and mobile clinics and to mobilize thousands of additional personnel to aid the distribution effort. To support the national vaccination plan, Biden is asking Congress for an additional $20 billion as part of a broader relief package. If implemented, Biden’s plan would represent a dramatic shift from the Trump administration’s decentralized, state-by-state approach to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Key Elements of the Biden Plan
Establish Thousands of Federally Supported Community Vaccination Centers and Mobile Vaccination Clinics
President-Elect Biden’s plan would call on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state and local governments, tribal governments and the private sector to establish thousands of federally supported community vaccination centers. Biden envisions converting facilities such as school gymnasiums, sports stadiums and community centers across the country to that purpose. In his January 15 speech, Biden promised that 100 of these centers would be established by the end of his first month in office.
Additionally, Biden is promising to deploy mobile clinics in partnership with community health centers and local primary care doctors to distribute vaccines to hard-to-reach communities in both urban and rural areas.
Mobilize Additional Vaccine Distribution Personnel
To assist in Biden’s national mobilization effort, the federal government would deploy or finance the mobilization of additional personnel in both clinical and nonclinical capacities. Biden would deploy personnel from FEMA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, military medical personnel and first responders.
Additionally, Biden would expand the list of professionals qualified to administer vaccines to include retired healthcare workers.
Biden also vowed that his administration would reimburse states for 100 percent of the cost of deploying their national guards to assist in vaccine distribution efforts.
Biden Plan Marks a Departure from the Trump Administration’s Decentralized Approach
President-Elect Biden’s national vaccine plan would dramatically expand the federal government’s role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, a task which the Trump administration has largely delegated to the states. Currently, the federal government is passing much of the approximately $8 billion approved by Congress last month for vaccine distribution directly to state governments, while also providing recommended allocation plans to states for the limited vaccine supply.
Some elements of President-Elect Biden’s plan, however, mirror efforts already implemented by the Trump administration. For example, Biden has described his plan to expand the recommended vaccine allocation to include individuals who are age 65 or older, the same change that current U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar announced at a press conference earlier the same week. Similarly, both the Biden and Trump administrations are calling for increased use of pharmacies to distribute and administer the vaccines. Additionally, while Biden had been calling for the Trump administration to release the federal vaccine stockpile being held in reserve to supply second doses, the public learned last week that the administration had changed course and had already released the stockpile.
Biden Seeks Additional Congressional Funding to Implement National Vaccination Plan
President-Elect Biden noted that his national vaccination plan will represent one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by the United States and would require additional funding to implement. Biden called the $900 billion relief package signed into law in late December 2020, which provided approximately $8 billion for vaccine distribution, merely a down payment. Biden is asking for an additional $20 billion as part of a broader $1.9 trillion proposed relief package.
About Duane Morris
Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help organizations plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.
For More Information
If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact Sharon L. Caffrey, Nathan Heeter, any member of the COVID-19 Strategy Team or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact
Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.