U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, alongside U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), proposed a bicameral plan to strengthen state, local, and Tribal public health infrastructure in anticipation of a seasonal flu outbreak that could compound the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health experts and health-care providers are increasingly worried about a “twindemic,” caused by an overlap of seasonal flu and COVID-19, that would double the burden on already strained health care facilities. The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act would help prevent the nation’s health care system from being overwhelmed by providing federal support to state, local, and Tribal public health infrastructure to boost flu vaccination rates, promote routine immunizations that have declined during the pandemic, and combat vaccine misinformation. The legislation was introduced in the House by U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14).
“For months public health officials have warned that the changing seasons could put the health of even more American’s at risk for the seasonal flu and COVID-19. Routine immunizations have decreased during this crisis and Congress must be proactive in ensuring all American’s receive this year’s flu vaccine,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act will deliver vital support to New York’s vaccine communication, readiness, and distribution programs so that families, especially in our Tribal communities, have the resources to stay safe and healthy.”
Specifically, the Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act would:
- Provide $560 million to build on state, local, and Tribal public health infrastructure to promote routine vaccinations, including through:
- Partnerships with health care providers, schools, pharmacies, vaccine coalitions, and community-based organizations
- Culturally and linguistically appropriate information about vaccines
- Outreach to promote health insurance options and immunization programs.
- Evaluation of efforts in order to improve initiatives to promote vaccinations.
- Distribute $2.5 million in funding to develop guidance on an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.
A summary of the legislation can be found here.