Chairman Neal Calls on Secretary Azar to Ensure Vulnerable Populations Have Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

Oct 8, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) urged the Trump Administration to develop an inclusive, comprehensive strategy for distributing COVID-19 vaccinations to all Americans. In a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Neal raised his concerns that the over 61 million American adults with disabilities and more than 25 million individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) could be excluded from the HHS’s plans to distribute a vaccine.

“In particular, I am concerned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently released strategic overview, From the Factory to the Frontlines: The Operation Warp Speed Strategy for Distributing a COVID-19 Vaccine, offered no details about how vaccine allocation and distribution processes will guarantee access to the vaccine for vulnerable communities. The National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) recently released consensus study report for equitable vaccine allocation convened from a CDC and National Institutes of Health (NIH) request offers specific guidance that I believe should be incorporated into the federal vaccination response,” Chairman Neal explained. “Accordingly, I am seeking detailed information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding its efforts to ensure that a COVID-19 vaccine strategy is fully inclusive of people with disabilities, people with LEP, and other Americans who face barriers to care or are at high risk of infection or severe illness due to COVID-19.”

“Without strong federal leadership and transparency, the impacts of inaction will be disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable members of our communities – who instead should have the full support of federal, state, and local governments in this time of crisis,” concluded Neal. “HHS’s recent announcement of $200 million in funding from the CDC to jurisdictions for COVID-19 preparedness is a start but is woefully inadequate. Without a federal plan for equitable vaccine access, ensuring public trust, and mobilizing federal resources for individuals who are in high-risk groups, we could further overwhelm local and state jurisdictions and leave marginalized communities behind.”

Neal requested HHS respond to a series of questions and brief congressional staff by October 23, 2020.

Read Chairman Neal’s entire letter HERE