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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: October 16, 2020 09:47 AM
From: Senator Maria Collett
To: All Senate members
Subject: Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Access Plan
Soon, I will introduce legislation committing the Commonwealth to an equitable distribution of any future FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine based upon the recommendations of leading national researchers. The advisors organized by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine developed a foundational blueprint that will be considered by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) as it crafts its recommendations, due to be released closer to the time a vaccine is approved. Without ACIP’s specific guidance available for planning now, states across the country are using the National Academies recommendations to advance their own vaccine distribution plans. 

Drug manufacturers and the federal government have been working quickly to get a viable COVID-19 vaccine to market for the protection of our citizens. As this process moves forward, there is little doubt that the amount of vaccine manufactured will not initially be enough to ensure coverage for everyone in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that as the first round of approved vaccines are released, there will only be enough to inoculate between 3% and 5% of the country’s population.  

Until a vaccine is widely available, we must ensure that Pennsylvanians who are most likely to be exposed to the virus or suffer from serious health complications from a COVID-19 infection are given first access to available vaccines.   

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released their final Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine Consensus Study Report on October 2, 2020.  A copy of the report can be downloaded here.  Recognizing the challenges of getting vaccines to the populations most at risk of contracting COVID-19 or having severe complications from infection, the report details recommendations for phased deployment of vaccines as they become available.   

The allocation recommendations are guided by foundational principles focused on fairness and nondiscriminatory practices, the mitigation of health inequities, public transparency and evidence-based planning. This legislation is meant to implement those recommendations as part of our state plan for combating COVID-19 crisis moving forward, particularly by prioritizing vaccination deployment to frontline healthcare workers, first responders, and those whose underlying health conditions make them more susceptible to infection and transmittal in the initial phases of vaccine availability.  

My legislation would prioritize the distribution of vaccines by first ensuring equitable access to our frontline health care workers, those who are most likely to be exposed to the virus. This would include high-risk health workers in hospitals, nursing homes and in-home care settings who are providing direct patient care.  It would also prioritize workers providing essential services to health care facilities, such as transportation, environmental services, and other facility services where the risk of exposure to bodily fluids or aerosols is high.  In addition, first responders with a high risk of COVID exposure would be prioritized in this first phase. 

In the next phase, at-risk populations, such as the elderly and those with certain pre-existing medical conditions which increase their chances of serious complications or death from COVID-19 infections, will be prioritized for vaccine deployment.   

Additional deployment prioritization phases as described by the National Academies recommendations will also apply. The plan will also allow for enough flexibility to adjust should the market shift outcomes regarding vaccine availability. 

In addition to providing for the prioritization of available vaccines, the legislation would require that no out-of-pocket cost be borne by the recipient of any COVID-19 approved vaccine. 

It may be 12 to 18 months after an approved vaccine first makes it to the market before there will be enough vaccine to cover all our citizens. Until such a time as a sufficient supply exists to cover all Pennsylvanians, we should be ensuring that those who literally put their lives on the line during this pandemic and those who have the greatest risk of dying from COVID-19 are given priority access to these life-saving vaccines. 

Please join me in ensuring that access to the COVID-19 vaccine goes to Pennsylvanians with the greatest need first.