News Release

Experts say more funding, staffing needed to effectively roll out COVID-19 vaccine

Leading physicians, public health advocates on panel offer solutions
For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON-- As word of a second viable COVID-19 vaccine became public, U.S. PIRG hosted a panel discussion with health experts from across the country to discuss how states and cities are planning to distribute the shots that eventually could stifle the pandemic. The panelists all agreed that the federal government needs to allocate more funds to effectively roll out a vaccine.

“Our biggest vulnerability is not vaccines anymore; increasingly, it’s vaccination,” Dr. Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, said during the online discussion. “We made a $10 billion investment in Operation Warp Speed and dedicated zero dollars to vaccine acceptance and community engagement.”

The panelists touched on three key needs for rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine:

  • At least $6 billion more in federal funding for states to implement their distribution plans, expand staffing and deal with logistical challenges;
  • More emphasis on programs that will increase public vaccine acceptance;
  • National coordination with state and local public health systems to see data on the vaccines and prevent potential wastage of any vaccine. 

Panelists also noted that staffing shortages of medical professionals could plague the vaccine response. 

“Across the nation, we’re seeing a huge hit to staffing. Who’s going to be manning these vaccine sites?” said Dr. Syra Madad, an infectious disease epidemiologist and Fellow at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. “Staffing is a huge consideration right now when the entire nation is surging.”  The U.S. recorded more than 166,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and hospitalizations and deaths are also on the rise. 

The panelists agreed that better national coordination could mitigate many of the most pressing issues. Dr. Trudy Larson, the dean of the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno, noted, “There’s a major communication problem, and that’s part of not having a national strategy.” 

NOTE: If you would like to speak to panel moderator Matt Wellington or any of the panelists, please use the contact information at the top of this release.

Panelist backgrounds: 

Syra Madad, DHSc., M.Sc., MCP, an infectious disease epidemiologist, Fellow at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Senior Director of the System-wide Special Pathogens Program at New York City Health + Hospitals

Saad Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD, FIDSA, Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, and a Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Yale University, Schools of Medicine and Public Health

Krutika Kuppalli MD, Vice Chair, Global Health Committee, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Medical University of South Carolina, Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Fellow, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

Trudy Larson, MD, an infectious disease physician, Professor and founding Dean of the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Larson has been active in HIV/AIDS care, immunization, and is currently serving on the Governor’s Medical Advisory Team for COVID-19. 

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