Assistant Secretary for Health on the distribution of the COVID vaccine

Right now, the COVID vaccine is being distributed across the country. It literally takes an army to make sure the doses reach big cities and rural America.

The nation’s Assistant Health Secretary was our guest on Rural Health Matters.

Admiral Brett Giroir leads the Commissioned Corps of Public Health Services, made up of 6,100 health professionals. They launched around the world when the coronavirus hit.

“We are developing new diagnostics to make them as simple and as cheap and as accessible-- very important in rural America to have that, so it’s very portable and accessible,” Adm. Giroir states. “Also, working on understanding how to link the diagnosis with different forms of treatment and building our whole capacity as a country.”

Right now, the push is to distribute the vaccine and Adm. Giroir wants to use all the tools we have to do it.

According to Adm. Giroir, “Many of the states are getting used to some the procedures. For example... not just hospitals and doctor’s offices, but pharmacies, very, very important, and we have over 40,000 pharmacies including independent pharmacies that are so important in rural America to provide vaccines. They’re going to start getting into the gear right after we finish this first phase.”

The National Guard is activated in many states, and the Assistant Secretary has authorized its EMT’s to provide vaccinations.

“The way this works is the states get allocated vaccines, and literally on a Tuesday we know what’s going to be available the following week. We let the states know, it’s all done on a per capita basis. So, it goes to states according to their population over 18 years of age... but on Tuesday that number goes out, and on Thursday, the states provided an order, where do they want it shipped,” he adds. “Many states, in fact a majority of states, are going to be using all the pharmacy chains... Some states want to go to central locations by the public health department. Obviously, some go to central hospital areas. So, it’s really a state by state thing, and I think that’s really important, particularly in rural America because what works in New York City is not going to work in South Dakota.”

He says that as of this week about 20 million doses have been distributed and he expects another 80 million by the end of February, but between now and then, President-elect Joe Biden will take office.

“I’ve had many positive meetings with the incoming administration. Almost everyone who’s working on the program today will still be working on January 21st. So, I don’t expect any interruption or disruption in the plan,” he notes.

In the meantime, the Assistant Secretary for Health has a message for everyone: “I want to thank Americans for all you do, and remember you have the power to save tens of thousands of lives... wear a mask if you can’t physically distance, try to avoid crowded indoor spaces, wash your hands and we will get through this together as a country.”


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