States Say They Need More Federal Funding To Aid Vaccine Distribution

( There has been a lot of great news about coronavirus vaccines recently.

In just the last week, drug candidates from Pfizer and Moderna have had excellent results in clinical trials. AstraZeneca is reporting positive results as well.

All of this has been leading people to be optimistic that a vaccine will start to be distributed before the end of this year to front-line health workers and possibly even other high-risk patients.

But there is one other potential hiccup to that — distribution on the state level.

Many state officials recently said they would need more financial support from the federal government to ensure they’re able to distribute the coronavirus vaccine whenever it is approved and released.

This vaccine will be unlike any other before. It will take an extraordinary number of additional staff members to administer the vaccines. Money will also need to be spent on developing data systems to track the vaccine doses. And more still to communicate the importance of getting the vaccine to the public.

If states don’t have the money to do all of this, and if the federal government doesn’t provide it to them — or if there is a delay in doing so — it could completely upend the vaccine distribution plan.

The National Academy for State Health Policy is hoping to avoid a repeat of what happened early in the pandemic, when states were competing with each other for essential resources from the federal government. This happened in regard to ventilators and personal protective equipment.

As the academy’s executive director, Trish Riley, said:

“That’s the wake-up-at-night worry. States can’t do this alone.”

States have said they might need up to $8.4 billion in additional funding just for vaccine distribution. That’s what groups representing local health officials and immunization managers said in a letter they sent to their leaders in Congress recently.

So far, states have received $340 million for planning in regard to both flu and COVID-19 vaccines. They’re expected to get another $140 million next month to help design distribution plans and update whatever information systems they need.

But that’s not going to be enough for some states, they say. The problem is that they don’t know if more funding will be available, and if so, when and how.

Michael Bars, a spokesman for the White House, did say states won’t be responsible for most of the expenses associated with vaccine distribution. The federal government has already paid for doses, he said, and costs associated with administration will be covered by some private insurers, Medicaid and Medicare.

Contracts that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have will cover storage and shipment of the vaccine. This is done through private pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS, who were recently announced as vaccine partners.

In a statement on Wednesday, Bars said:

“The Administration continues working hand-in-hand with our state and local partners and remain intensely focused on helping American communities prepare for and respond to health threats while ensuring they have the tools and resources to better treat patients and protect the most vulnerable. We are sparing no effort or expense to save millions of lives.”