How does $10B sound to convince people to get COVID vaccinations?

The American Rescue Plan was jammed through on a single-party vote. It was supposed to be a relief package in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. We all know what happened. Republicans objected to all the pork and unrelated issues addressed at the expense of the American taxpayer. An item inside the bill is one that allows $10 billion to be spent to convince people hesitant to receive COVID-19 vaccinations to go do it.

Today, during his first official press conference, Biden announced that a new goal of 200 million shots administered by the 100-day mark in his administration. He announced a new goal of spending $10B to convince those who are not vaccinated to do so when the time comes. He wants to “increase vaccine confidence across the country”. I can’t help but think back to when Biden, Kamala Harris, and many other high-profile Democrats said they were hesitant to trust a vaccine created during the Trump administration. Aren’t Democrats the Party of Science? That wasn’t the slam on Trump they hoped it to be, that hesitancy was a slap in the face to all the scientists and medical professionals who worked to create and test the COVID vaccines.

The United States crossed the 30 million mark on COVID infections this week. More COVID-19 variants are being detected and many states are beginning to lift mitigation mandates like mandatory masking-up. The fear stated by the CDC and others in the medical community is that another spike is coming post-Spring Break and Easter. ‘I continue to be worried about the latest data and the apparent stall we’re seeing in the trajectory of the pandemic,’ CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday. ‘CDC is watching these numbers very closely.’

This month, the United States saw the first uptick in new COVID cases on a weekly basis since January and cases are trending higher in 30 out of 50 states. More than 546,000 people have died in the U.S. from the virus.

Additionally more cases of the COVID variants from the UK, Brazil and South Africa are being detected.

In the last week alone, the U.S. has reported 2,926 new variant cases – more than the country reported in December, January and February combined, a USA TODAY analysis found.

Health experts warn a fourth surge of the virus could come unless preventative measures – such as mask wearing – stay in place.

When I’m often asked, “Are we turning the corner?,” my response is really more like, “We are at the corner. Whether or not we’re going to be turning that corner still remains to be seen,”’ said Dr. Anthony Fauci at Wednesday’s press briefing from health officials.

And Walensky warned: ‘Decisions we make now will determine how the pandemic looks in the days and weeks ahead.

So far, only six states have lifted mandatory mask-wearing – Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Alabama, Indiana, and Utah are set to do so in April. The good news is that almost one-fourth of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Almost 13% of the American population is fully vaccinated now. A top priority has been to vaccinate underserved minority communities. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed 39 states. Their data shows 19% of whites have gotten vaccinated compared with 11% of blacks and 9% of Latinos. It is likely that we will achieve herd immunity by late June or July. In order for that to happen, 75% of the population has to be vaccinated. Biden announced he wants vaccine eligibility expanded to all adults by May 1. That’s eligible to be vaccinated, not vaccinated. So, by July, it’s entirely feasible for the U.S. to reach herd immunity, certainly, as long as the supply of vaccines continues to meet demands.

The Department of Health and Human Services will dedicate $6 billion from the Covid-19 economic relief law to expand access to Covid-19 vaccines in underserved communities and $3 billion to strengthen vaccine confidence, according to the White House. The funding will be made available starting in April.

HHS, through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will provide $300 million for community health worker services to support Covid-19 prevention and control and an additional $32 million for training, technical assistance, and evaluation, the White House said.

In addition to the funding, the administration is expanding eligibility for vaccines to patients served by community health centers to include frontline essential workers and people 16 years and older with high-risk medical conditions.

The Biden administration also announced a new partnership with dialysis clinics to provide Covid-19 vaccinations to people receiving dialysis and health care personnel in outpatient dialysis clinics.

The key to reaching millions of unvaccinated people now is to go to them, not wait for them to come in for a vaccination. Especially in underserved communities, vaccination locations are going into targeted communities. Many city officials, especially in large urban areas, are realizing that vaccination goals will be met when the vaccinations are taken to the people directly. Community centers, for example, can provide vaccination events. Local pharmacies are beginning to receive vaccine shipments and schedule appointments. The same holds true for mobile clinics.