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Last week, Senator Murray announced 27 community health centers in Washington state will receive a combined $213,959,125 million in American Rescue Plan funding to support COVID-19 vaccination and services for vulnerable and underserved populations

Senator Murray: “For safe, effective vaccines to truly have the impact we need—they have to get to everyone, everywhere. This pandemic won’t end for anyone until it’s over for everyone. That’s why today’s discussion is so important.” 

***WATCH VIDEO OF THE EVENT HERE***

Seattle, WA – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate health committee, hosted a roundtable with local public health officials from across Washington state to hear about the state of COVID-19 vaccine equity, and to discuss how the American Rescue Plan will help to address inequities in vaccine distribution. Senator Murray was joined by Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County Public Health Officer; Dr. Anthony Chen, Director of Health of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department; and Luke D. Davies, Health District Administrator for Chelan-Douglas Health District.

“For safe, effective vaccines to truly have the impact we need—they have to get to everyone, everywhere. This pandemic won’t end for anyone until it’s over for everyone. That’s why today’s discussion is so important,” said Senator Murray. “I made it a priority in the American Rescue Plan to include key provisions that would help address inequities facing communities that are too often left behind, like funding for community health centers that can better reach underserved populations. COVID-19 has put a harsh spotlight on inequity—but it’s only exacerbating something that was a problem long before this crisis began, and, while the American Rescue Plan makes major strides in addressing these issues, I’ll continue to prioritize health equity in my work even after we’re on the other side of this pandemic.” 

Last week, Senator Murray announced 27 community health centers in Washington state will receive a combined $213,959,125 million in American Rescue Plan funding to support COVID-19 vaccination and services for vulnerable and underserved populations. The funding will be awarded beginning in April by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“In rural Clallam County, the foundation of our success has been a commitment to equitable distribution of vaccine. From assuring that early doses were distributed equitably to healthcare workers across the county, to administering extra doses in shelters and prisons, to close partnerships with our neighboring tribes, an early commitment to equity - along with a great deal of advance planning - has helped us consistently lead the state in vaccine distribution, despite our relatively few resources,” said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam Public Health Officer.

“Equity support obviously needs funding and that’s where the ARP will really help out. And my hope is that, through these efforts, COVID-19 cases will decline in our counties, state, and across the United States. But, as I mentioned, the rates are going up right now. We’ve also heard several other states have – what I think is – prematurely lifted their restrictions, including masking mandates. So, thankfully, Washington is in a better circumstance – we still have guidance that keeps us safer. And let’s be cautious not to let optimism translate into making the wrong choices,” said Dr. Anthony Chen, Director of Health, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

"The American Rescue Plan provides more resources locally, so that helps a lot. A lot of our plans were really focused on making sure we had the capacity to get the vaccine out to people where they are. And so it doesn't necessarily change our approach, we're still developing local mobile units who can do pop-up clinics and be very flexible, and can also potentially set up mass vaccination sites. As we move forward, with the federal allocations hopefully increasing in April, May, and June, we're going to be able to have a capacity to hopefully vaccinate our entire population depending on how much vaccine comes to us. So with the resources that are coming down the line, that will just strengthen our efforts," said Luke D. Davies, Health District Administrator for Chelan-Douglas Health District.

Earlier this month, Senator Murray held a hearing with clinicians, public health experts, and state health officials about the challenges of serving on the frontlines of our COVID-19 response, the importance of equitable vaccine distribution, and the steps necessary to help bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end. In particular, Senator Murray stressed that when it comes to vaccinating communities of color, more work needs to be done and noted the efforts of the Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington state to help make sure vaccines reach the Pacific Islander community which has struggled to access them.

Senator Murray has also been a leader in the effort to ensure every person can get safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines at no cost. She outlined what was necessary for that back in July of last year, secured funding for vaccination efforts in December’s COVID relief package, and has continued to emphasize the importance of making sure we address inequities and vaccine hesitancy as vaccinations ramp up so underserved communities and communities of color are not left behind. 

As one of the key authors of the American Rescue Plan, Senator Murray worked to secure important provisions to prioritize vaccine equity and support vaccine distribution overall, including: 

  • $20 billion for improving vaccine administration and distribution.
  • $8 billion for Community Health Centers, FQHC look-alikes, and Native Hawaiian Health Centers
  • $49 billion for testing, genomic sequencing of variants, and contact tracing efforts, as well as manufacturing and procurement of PPE. And another $10 billion for the Defense Production Act to procure essential PPE and other medical equipment.
  • $8 billion for public health workforce development.

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