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January 29, 2021

Health Law Weekly

Biden Takes Steps to Boost Vaccine Supply, Distribution

  • January 29, 2021

President Biden this week continued to focus on measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including to increase the availability of vaccines.

In remarks January 26, Biden said that the administration will be increasing overall weekly vaccination distribution to the states from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses.

The administration also will provide states with a three-week supply forecast, instead of the current one-week projection, so they have a better handle on the number of vaccine doses in the pipeline.

To increase the supply of vaccines, Biden directed COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zeints to work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to purchase an additional 200 million vaccine doses—100 million from Pfizer and 100 million from Moderna. Delivery of the additional doses are expected by this summer, Biden said.

According to Biden, with the additional doses, the government will have enough to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer.

Zients, at the first COVID-19 Response Team briefing on January 27, said HHS will amend the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to allow recently retired or inactive physicians and nurses to administer vaccines and anyone currently licensed in a state to vaccinate and administer shots across state lines.

In other news, Acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran said in a January 22 letter to governors that the public health emergency likely will remain in place through 2021. According to the letter, HHS will provide states with 60 days’ notice before terminating the PHE.

The current PHE was renewed effective January 21 and is effective for 90 days.

“Predictability and stability are important given the foundation and flexibilities offered to states that are tied to the designation of the PHE,” the letter. “The goal is to ensure to the maximum extent feasible that, in an emergency area during an emergency period, sufficient health care items and services are available to meet the needs of individuals receiving Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP and that providers that furnish such items and services can be reimbursed for them and exempt from sanctions, absent fraud or abuse.”