White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients announced a number of changes to the federal government’s COVID-19 response policies Tuesday, including the launch of a new pilot program shipping vaccines directly to pharmacies across the U.S.
In addition to the new vaccine pilot program, Zients told reporters during a White House coronavirus briefing that the government is again increasing the amount of vaccines shipped to states and territories every week. This roughly 5 percent increase follows a 16 percent weekly increase announced in late January. (RELATED: Biden Reimposes Trump’s Aluminum Tariff On United Arab Emirates)
Furthermore, Zients noted that President Joe Biden has approved Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to backdate reimbursement for states’ pandemic responses dating back to the beginning of the pandemic. He estimated the policy change would cost between $3-5 billion, but would not require Congress to allocate additional funds in the next coronavirus stimulus package.
During a question-and-answer session following the announcement, Zients clarified that roughly 6,500 pharmacies will receive a total of 1,000 vaccine doses when the program launches Feb. 11. The government chose the initial participating pharmacies based on location. The administration is targeting areas far removed from current vaccination sites, and will plan on increasing both the amount of doses shipped to pharmacies and the total number of pharmacies in the program as Pfizer and Moderna scale up vaccine production.