DENVER — While the U.S. Senate begins its impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump, down Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House, the Biden Administration is trying to keep the focus on COVID-19 relief.
The White House announced Tuesday it will increase the number of vaccines it is sending out to states to 11 million doses starting next week.
“That’s a 28% increase just since we came into office on Jan. 20. We know we have a lot more to do, but that’s a key way where every week increase in the supply, as more vaccines are being manufactured from Pfizer and Moderna,” said Kate Berner, the White House Deputy Communications Director.
The White House spoke to governors in a group call Tuesday about its plan to help states with vaccine distribution.
In an effort to reach underserved communities, the Biden administration will be sending some of those doses to pharmacies and federally qualified community health centers. It is also increasing the number of people who can administer the vaccines by enlisting retired nurses, doctors and current Department of Defense employees to help.
“We think that our pharmacy program and, particularly, our community health center program, which we announced today, are key to helping ensure communities of color and other underserved communities receive the vaccine,” Berner said.
The increase in doses is something Gov. Jared Polis welcomed during a press conference Tuesday, saying it will translate to roughly 9,000 additional doses per week for Colorado.
However, Polis aired some concerns about the oversight for the pharmacies and clinics that will be given the doses.
“We want to make sure that any direct federal program that goes to pharmacies or community health clinics is also subject to accountability to me as governor of Colorado and the other governors to make sure it doesn’t sit there for a week or two but actually gets used right away,” he said.
The Governor pointed out there have been instances in Colorado and across the country where some providers are not giving out the vaccines right away, and he has had to cut off their supply and divert it to a provider that will distribute the doses quickly.
Polis said he would like similar oversight for the pharmacies and clinics.
While the governor welcomed the new administration’s increased vaccine doses, transparency with the supply chain and two-week delivery schedule, Polis said states are still being left in the dark about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
“I think there’s increasing frustration about the lack of visibility into the quantity of Johnson and Johnson supply,” he said. “What we should know is when and if it’s approved, what those quantities look like first week, second week, third week, so I joined and share that desire to have more knowledge so that we can plan.”
Gov. Polis also called for more transparency into the federal nursing home program, the direct-to-pharmacy program and the community health programs.
Meanwhile, the White House said it is also working with the Federal Emergency Management Authority to set up mass vaccination sites in states and will be launching a public health campaign targeting the issue of vaccine hesitancy.
Beyond vaccine doses, Biden’s team is also looking at how the pandemic is affecting the economy and ways it can help.
“Just like in Colorado, across the country the economy is slowing down. What we saw in last week’s jobs report was the economy over the last quarter was stalling out,” Binder said.
Binder said the economic slowdown is all the more reason why the president’s relief plan needs to be passed by Congress, saying it can help women, in particular, rejoin the workforce since it provides funding for schools to reopen safely and offers an emergency child care tax credit.
For now, the White House said it’s doing all it can to help states deal with the COVID crisis, while officials, like Polis, wait for clarification on the rollout of some of these federal programs.