Biden stimulus plan beefs up COVID-19 vaccinations and testing

His vaccination plans call for creation of 100 federally support community vaccine sites in the first month of his administration.

President-elect Joe Biden’s economic stimulus and COVID-19 relief plan includes $415 billion in emergency spending to hike vaccinations, testing, contact tracing, genomic sequencing, and other COVID-19 relief efforts.

The proposals are part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal unveiled on January 14.

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“The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far. …. We’ll have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people’s arms, to increase vaccine supply to get it out the door as fast as possible,” Biden said in an address, Stat reported. “But we need about $400 billion in funding from Congress to make all of what I just said happen.”

Biden’s is proposing $20 billion for a national vaccination program, $30 billion for purchasing supplies and protective gear, and $50 billion for a scaled-up diagnostic testing program.

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Testing funding would likely be prioritized for rapid antigen tests, a Biden adviser said, according to Stat.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Biden will urge Congress to provide $160 billion in funding as part of launching the national vaccination program, expanding testing, mobilizing a public-health jobs program, and other steps to build capacity to fight the virus.

In a speech on Friday. Biden outlined his COVID vaccination plan. He mapped out five points:

Work with states to open up vaccination to more priority groups. Biden said his administration will work with states to allow people other than healthcare workers to get vaccinated. He specifically mentioned people 65 and older and essential workers such as educators, first responders and grocery store workers.

More vaccination sites. Biden promised that there were 100 federally supported vaccination centers set up during the first month of his administration. He also mentioned mobile clinics, expanding the pool of healthcare workers who could administer the vaccine, and 100% federal reimbursement of costs if state use their National Guard in COVID-19-related efforts.

Activating pharmacies. Biden referred somewhat vaguely to a “new major effort” to work with independent and chain pharmacies. “This program will expand access in neighborhoods across the country so you can make an appointment and get your shot conveniently and quickly.”

Ramp up supply and don’t hold doses back. The president-elect again said his administration would use the Defense Production Act to accelerate the manufacturing of supplies and equipment needed to administer the vaccine. Biden also said his administration is moving to a policy of having the first dose of vaccine administered to people as soon as the supply is available rather than holding back doses for the second dose as the Trump administration did. But in his remarks on Friday, Biden also stressed that administration is not veering from the two-dose schedule of the two vaccines that are currently available, the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines.

Transparency. Biden promised to “honest and transparent about where we stand — both the good news and the bad.” State and local officials, he said, haven’t known how much vaccine they will be getting so they can’t plan. “That stops with when we are in office,” Biden promised.

Despite his criticism of the vaccine rollout, Biden believes the U.S. will meet his goal of administering 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office.

Biden is requesting additional funding for genomic sequencing efforts due to the new SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.7, that is spreading rapidly across the United Kingdom, the U.S., and other countries.

The Centers for Disease Control said the variant, which is more contagious than SARS-CoV-2, will likely become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.

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