A bipartisan group of governors expressed concern Monday at the Biden administration’s vaccine rollout, writing in a letter to the White House that better coordination is needed between the federal government and states on distributing doses to prevent confusion and duplicative efforts.
The executive committee of the National Governors Association, comprised of Democrats and Republicans, raised alarm over two areas of confusion: first, the numbers publicly reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccine distribution; and second, the separate federal distribution systems — including a recently launched program sending vaccines directly to retail pharmacies — they say have caused inefficiencies.
President Joe Biden has made distributing Covid-19 vaccines a priority for his first 100 days in office. He has announced new federal purchases of hundreds of millions of doses and has said there will be sufficient supply for most Americans by the end of July.
Yet the letter illustrates the continued confusion over the rollout effort, which began under Biden’s predecessor but that the governors say persists under his watch.
“We need coordination between the federal government and the state government so we know what pharmacies they’re sending to,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, during a news conference on Monday. Cuomo is currently embroiled in a scandal over whether figures on nursing home cases in New York State were covered up.
Cuomo, who is the chairman of the National Governors Association, said it was hard to know exactly where the federal government was sending the vaccines doses it is distributing directly.
“Some pharmacies are already getting a distribution,” he said. “If the federal government is sending to CVS, I don’t send to CVS.”
The White House did not immediately have a response to the governors’ letter, which was also signed by the leaders of Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Michigan.
In it, the governors said discrepancies with the CDC’s public reporting of vaccine statistics were causing “unnecessary confusion” for their citizens. State officials have complained the publicly reported numbers of vaccines allocated by the federal government differed from what was actually on the ground in their states. Both numbers differ from the actual vaccines health care providers have administered into arms.
The governors group said the issues with public reporting of vaccine distribution have been ongoing “since last year,” when the Trump administration was still in place.
“Due to the anxiety created by the demand and supply of the vaccine, it is imperative that the American people fully understand the process,” the governors wrote.
They also voiced concern that the multiple federal vaccination programs — including the pharmacies — are “beyond our control” and confusing for the public.
“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,” the governors wrote.
They singled out federal shipments of vaccines to nursing homes and long-term care facilities, retail pharmacies and Federally Qualified Health Centers as examples of areas where the effort was causing duplicative efforts, writing they were better positioned to know which facilities were equipped to distribute shots.
The Biden administration announced earlier this month it was beginning direct shipments of 1 million vaccines doses per week to retail pharmacies, which it said were selected “based on their ability to reach some of the populations most at risk for severe illness from Covid-19, including socially vulnerable communities.”