Posted on May 15, 2020

Are We Ready to Immunize Americans on a Mass Scale with COVID-19 Vaccines?

Takeaways from NEHI's May 13, "Adult Immunizations and the COVID-19 Crisis" Webinar

Judging by our performance on influenza and other adult immunizations we are not. To be prepared for COVID-19 immunization -- whether this year or next -- we need to shore up and radically improve our efforts to immunize adults for flu and other vaccine-preventable diseases and pursue other measures that will prepare the country for rapid, orderly, mass COVID-19 immunization. We need to do so right now.
This was the conclusion of a 3-person panel NEHI convened as part of our May 13 NEHI Live webinar, “Adult Immunizations and the COVID-19 Crisis.” The webinar followed the recent release of a NEHI issue brief (“Unlocking the Unrealized Potential of Adult Immunizations”) that highlights major recommendations for improving lagging rates of adult immunization in the U.S. Thank you to panelists Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo (VP of Quality and Commercial Innovation at Premier Inc.), Abby Bownas (Manager of the Adult Vaccine Access Coalition, AVAC), and Charley John, (Director of U.S. Policy for Walgreens), as well as the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation and Merck for funding the launch of NEHI's adult immunization project.
NEHI’s webinar panelists pointed out that upgrading our capabilities to immunize adults against vaccine-preventable disease is an especially urgent priority to pave the way for the eventual administration of COVID-19 vaccines.  If the U.S. is to achieve mass COVID-19 immunization it will need to rely on both existing immunization infrastructure and on new innovations in immunization distribution and administration that are yet to be identified. Discussion among NEHI panelists focused on several issues including the need to upgrade immunization data infrastructure through state immunization registries and other healthcare IT resources; expand the ranks of immunizers through harmonizing legal authority for immunization practices across the states (to fully authorize pharmacists, nurses, and other professionals); and create clear, consistent public health messaging regarding the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines that are ultimately approved for use in the U.S.

NEHI is launching a continuing project on COVID-19 immunization readiness and invites all NEHI members – and others- to contribute your ideas, suggestions, and your financial support. 

Look for new NEHI webinars on COVID-19 immunization in the weeks ahead, and contact NEHI CEO Wendy Warring, wwarring@nehi.net and VP of Policy Research Tom Hubbard, thubbard@nehi.net  for information.

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