Providing COVID-19 vaccinations to all Americans by June will reportedly cost states billions of dollars — and ultimately be paid for at the expense of other necessary services.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday state leaders are worried rollout costs, including the hiring of medical workers, providing community outreach and education, setting up clinics, and ensuring storage capacity, will drain their coffers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent more than $300 million to states to support flu and COVID-19 vaccine planning, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Journal reported.
But Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s health secretary and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told a Senate hearing Thursday that states need $8.4 billion for the vaccination program, the Journal reported.
“This will not be a short-term operation,” she said, adding that states also would face a challenge “in almost competing with each other for resources,” as they did in the search for protective equipment in the spring. “It would be helpful if the federal government coordinated that and we didn’t have to bid against our sister states,” she said.
Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner and a health-policy professor at George Washington University, told the Journal “states are so stretched.”
“They’re running a marathon at sprint speed with very little support,” she told the Journal. “It would be a shame if all the effort on Warp Speed for development isn’t warp speed for distribution.”
New York state estimates its vaccination distribution effort could cost as much as $1 billion, Robert Mujica, the state’s budget director, told the Journal. About 75% of the projected costs are personnel-related, including the hiring and training of vaccinators, doctors, and support staff, he said.
Other expenses will involve logistics like vaccination refrigeration, warehouse storage and security, and public campaigns to encourage people to get the shots, he told the news outlet.
Virginia officials said they expect vaccine distribution to cost as much as $120 million.
“I think it should be part of the federal government’s responsibility, but make no mistake, we’re going to do it,” Aubrey Layne, the state’s finance secretary, told the Journal. “We have to put the welfare and health of our citizens first.”
Ohio estimates its vaccine-related costs could run more than $100 million. The state has close to $300 million left in federal CARES Act funding. Officials plan to use that money for testing and tracing but could redirect some of it to vaccine distribution, Kimberly Murnieks, director of the state’s Office of Budget and Management, told the news outlet.
But Mujica said the federal government should cover most, if not all, distribution costs given the magnitude of the pandemic.
“This is no different than any other national emergency, so the federal government should put up the resources to do it,” he told the Journal.
So far, the federal government has provided New York $14 million for vaccine planning, with $10 million more expected Dec. 15, Mujica said, adding New York’s share of CARES Act funding has been exhausted.
“We don’t want to cut education and healthcare, but that’s what it would mean for us,” he told the Journal.
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