On its first full day in office, the Biden-Harris administration released a comprehensive document laying out its widely anticipated plan to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. As we expected, the plan makes numerous references to the central role that Community Health Centers will play in this effort, given their status as trusted health care providers serving communities hard hit by the pandemic, testing more than 7,730,000 patients and diverting non-acute COVID cases from overwhelmed hospitals. The national strategy also includes a welcome discussion of the need for additional funding to enable health centers to expand their vaccination activities.
“We’re excited to see the Biden administration moving so quickly to initiate a coordinated national strategy to fight the pandemic and the significant role it envisions for Community Health Centers,” said Dr. Ron Yee, NACHC’s Chief Medical Officer. “Community Health Centers are up to the task, including helping to administer COVID vaccines. They just need vaccines, supplies, appropriate reimbursement, and a well-functioning vaccine reporting system to support them in meeting the ambitious goals set out in the White House plan.”
At 198 pages, the White House plan is detailed. It includes the following specific goals where health centers are identified as having a key role:
- Create as many venues as needed for people to be vaccinated.
- Drive equity throughout the vaccination campaign and broader pandemic response.
- Expand access to high-quality health care.
Of particular note is the plan’s description of a new federal partnership with health centers to accomplish the administration’s goal of creating vaccination venues that people trust:
“Launch new partnership with Federally Qualified Health Centers nationwide. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) serve more than 30 million patients each year—one in 11 people nationwide. Many are people of color and individuals struggling to make ends meet. Given the critical role that these providers play in their communities, the federal government, through HRSA and CDC, will launch a new program to ensure that FQHCs can directly access vaccine supply where needed. At the same time, the Administration will encourage jurisdictions to engage health centers closely in their overall jurisdictional plans. And to ensure that health centers have the resources they need to successfully launch vaccination programs, HRSA will launch a new program to provide guidance, technical assistance and other resources to prepare and engage these providers nationwide.”