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Address COVID-19 Vaccine Access Challenges with Leadership, Funding, Collaboration and Science

Barbara D. Alexander, MD, MHS, FIDSA – President, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Rajesh T. Gandhi, MD, FIDSA – Chair, HIV Medicine Association

The current obstacles to swift and widespread COVID-19 vaccine access are impeding control of the pandemic amid soaring rates of infections, illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths and must be addressed effectively and immediately.

To address the worsening public health emergency, vaccination programs must be well-resourced and accelerated with strong and transparent production, distribution and administration plans. We support the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s statement released Monday that changes to the authorized use of the vaccines, including the dosing that has been informed by clinical trial data, would be premature and potentially harmful. Such changes at this time carry the risk of both undermining the effectiveness of vaccines and eroding the public trust necessary for successful vaccine uptake. As always, our approach against this pandemic must be founded in science, leadership, funding, collaboration and cooperation.

The outgoing and incoming administrations must strengthen federal leadership to ensure that adequate funding, including funding recently appropriated by Congress, immediately reaches state and local health departments and partners. This is necessary to support successful vaccine administration strategies, including expanding staffing for planning and implementation, and working with healthcare providers, healthcare systems and workplaces to operate high-volume sites and ensure timely access to vaccines by eligible populations. We urge states to work with the federal government, in accordance with recommendations from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, to ensure optimal and equitable vaccine allocation that appropriately prioritizes those who need the vaccine most.

As vaccine rollout continues, we encourage all people to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible and to continue nonpharmaceutical measures that include limiting nonessential activities and travel, wearing masks, restricting the size of gatherings, maintaining distance, quarantining when exposed and isolating when infected.

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