Polis, other governors ask Biden admin. for more transparency, coordination in vaccine rollout

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DENVER – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and a bipartisan group of governors wrote a letter to President Joe Biden Monday asking him to provide better clarity in how the administration is rolling out vaccine doses and how the federal government can better coordinate its programs with states that are more familiar with their own on-the-ground needs.

The letter came from the executive committee of the National Governor’s Association and was signed by Polis and eight other governors of both parties.

In news conferences in recent weeks, Polis, a Democrat, has applauded the Biden administration’s plan to roll out enough vaccines for all Americans by the end of the summer but also expressed some concerns with the federal programs to send vaccine directly to nursing and long-term care facilities, pharmacies and community health clinics.

Last Tuesday, Polis said he and other governors had been on the phone with the White House that morning, when it announced it would be sending 27,000 additional doses to Colorado over the next three weeks, and that the governors wanted to be sure any of those federal direct programs are “subject to accountability to governors to be sure [the vaccine] doesn’t sit there and gets used right away.”

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He said that those direct federal programs, which got underway with the administration of vaccine to long-term care facilities in states like Colorado, provided governors with “some visibility” into how much vaccine is coming from the government directly to facilities, but that more was needed. He said that only about 10-15% of vaccine in Colorado was at the time coming directly though those federal programs.

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As the latest direct-to-pharmacy and direct-to-community-health-centers programs roll out, the governors asked the administration in Monday’s letter to change the way by which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports vaccine distribution and administration to people, which they said currently creates “unnecessary confusion.”

The governors said that the NGA wants the CDC to distinguish how much vaccine is being sent to states for them to administer and how much is being dispersed to people in each state through the direct federal programs.

They also asked that the federal government coordinate with states in its rollouts of vaccine direct to pharmacies and other Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), saying that states are oftentimes providing doses to those same providers and they need to be sure they are not doubling up.

“We understand the capacity of the individual entities and we know the range of the individual entities throughput and their inventory,” the governors wrote. “As usual, some pharmacies and FQHCs are better suited for the task than others. Following the performance data on these entities is essential. We also know the need in the respective communities they serve and other efforts in the geographic vicinity.”

The governor’s office said Monday evening it had nothing further to add beyond the contents of the letter. Polis said in a news conference earlier this month that he had been pleased so far by the administration’s increase in supply and twice-a-week deliveries but said that the direct federal programs and information on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine timeline were among the “big questions” still outstanding with respect to the administration’s efforts.

“If the federal government distributes independently of the states to these same entities without state coordination and consultation, redundancy and inefficiency may very well follow,” he and the other governors wrote in Monday’s letter.

The governors also told Biden that the new coordinator of the administration’s coronavirus task force, Jeff Zients, was “doing great work” and said they looked forward to working with the administration on the issues.