March 18, 2021
Energy and Commerce hearing on Biden Administration actions to increase COVID-19 vaccinations
On March 17, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing entitled "Leading the Way Forward: Biden Administration Actions to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations," featuring testimony Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
Throughout the hearing, several members from across the aisle applauded the administration's announcement that they would allow all adults to receive the vaccine by May, and Republican members stressed President Trump's Operation Warp Speed initiative as vital in the vaccine effort. Doctors Fauci and Walensky expressed the need to vaccinate as many people as possible, explore all types of vaccine hesitancy, and to get the word out through trusted messengers. They also explained how they are ramping up vaccinations in underserved communities through the Biden administration's rural pharmacy program, FEMA vaccination sites targeted based on population and social vulnerability, and partnerships with federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) to reach under-served and vulnerable populations.
Several Republican members brought up new research showing that school transmission rates are the same when students are spaced three feet apart instead of six feet, and asked when guidance would be updated to enable schools to reopen with easier-to-follow guidelines, also noting the mental health impacts on children. Dr. Walensky said the CDC is well aware of the studies and are actively reviewing them. Several committee members also asked about vaccines for children, to which Dr. Fauci said trials are ongoing and they should be able to vaccinate high school children starting in the fall and younger children in the first quarter of 2022.
The panel also noted the importance of building out the public health infrastructure, including epidemiological and data modernization, and learning lessons from this pandemic for the next, in addition to engaging with the global community to ensure the whole world has access to the vaccine. Other areas discussed included partnerships with dialysis centers to deliver vaccines, research and treatment for "long-covid," alternative vaccine delivery systems, potential concerns with the AstraZeneca vaccine, and more.
Additional information is available in the attached Tax Alert.
Energy & Commerce hearing on COVID-19 vaccines