• October 17th, 2021
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COVID-19 Vaccination: No Time to Lose


 

Rep. Diana DeGette

 

Editor’s Note: The following are U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette’s opening remarks at the February 2nd, hearing focused on finding ways to speed up distribution of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the country:

Today, the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee holds its first hearing of the one hundred and seventeenth Congress on an issue that holds the promise to finally end this pandemic: the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

Photo: Office of Rep. DeGette Congresswoman Diana DeGette

This committee has conducted relentless oversight of the COVID-19 pandemic response from the very start.

Last year, we saw endless dysfunction and chaos as our country was adrift by the absence of strong, competent federal leadership – but, as bad as it was last spring, this winter has brought an even more dangerous stage.

In recent weeks, cases and hospitalizations have soared all over the country. As many as 4,000 Americans per day have died from this awful virus and now, we’re seeing mutations of the virus beginning to spread throughout the United States.

As the title of this hearing makes clear, we have no time to lose.

We must act with a sense of urgency and use every resource available at the federal, state, and local level to fight the spread of this disease, and to end the suffering and death – and to return to normalcy.

We must act with a sense of urgency and use every resource available at the federal, state, and local level to fight the spread of this disease, and to end the suffering and death – and to return to normalcy.

The Biden administration has its work cut out for it. Indeed, it faces the greatest and most immediate challenge of any presidential administration in modern memory. But already we are seeing signs that the ship is beginning turning around.

The Biden administration recently announced a comprehensive national strategy for the COVID-19 pandemic, something this committee has long called for.

This plan advances urgently needed solutions to mount a successful vaccination program, restore trust with the American people, and mitigate the spread of the virus – while, at the same time, providing the emergency relief that Americans desperately need.

We will continue to engage with the administration on what the federal government needs from Congress to execute this plan and get us on track.

The key task we are faced with now is the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

The portion of Operation Warp Speed – the federal-private partnership to research and develop the vaccines, test them in clinical trials for safety and efficacy, and get them authorized for use – was an enormous undertaking and a profound victory for our heroic scientists – but that was only the first step. If we do not ensure that Americans also gets vaccinated quickly, those efforts will have been in vain.

Those charged with administering the COVID-19 vaccine programs around the country – including our excellent witnesses today – have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to ensure equitable and expeditious administration of these life-saving vaccines.

That is why we are convened today. To hear from state leaders on the frontlines about how we can significantly ramp up vaccinations.

As we will hear, states are mobilizing to expand who will be eligible to receive the vaccine next – with a special emphasis on ensuring equity for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and historically marginalized communities.

For instance, my home state of Colorado recently announced plans to hold pop-up vaccination clinics in 50 high-density, low-income, communities of color – many in my congressional district.

Despite these efforts, we have already been seeing a lot of frustration and confusion.

Since the rollout started in December, one consistent theme has been the lack of transparency about how many vaccines are coming and when. Compounding matters, surveys indicate that while the majority of Americans want to get the COVID-19 vaccine, there are some who continue to have reservations.

Thankfully, the Biden administration has committed to changes – such as transparent data for the states and the public – that will address some of those issues so that we can build trust and work to get every available vaccine administered quickly and equitably.

In fact, the biggest challenge I’m hearing from most states now is simply a lack of supply.

After some initial challenges in administering the vaccines, states and local communities are reporting that now the demand for the vaccine far exceeds the supply, and they stand ready to vaccinate many more Americans, if we can just get them the doses they need.

The end of this nightmare is in sight. Now is the time to double-down on our efforts and finally turn the corner on this pandemic.

 

Congresswoman Diana DeGette serves Colorado’s 1st Congressional District.

 

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