In the News

Rep. Annie Kuster: It’s time to boost nation’s vaccination efforts

**Published in the Concord Monitor**

The development of two safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in under one year is an unprecedented achievement in modern science and represents some of the most effective vaccines ever created. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are nearly 100% effective against the COVID-19 disease and will save countless lives in the United States in partnership with our continued efforts to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

But like most Americans, I have been frustrated with the slow pace of the vaccine rollout. While the Trump administration had targeted 20 million vaccinations by the end of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows that only 2.6 million Americans received the vaccine. To establish community immunity through vaccinations, 75-80% of the American population must be vaccinated, but with the current pace of the rollout, it would take years to reach this threshold.

There is no greater public health priority than administering the vaccine to all eligible Americans as quickly as possible. That is why the first bill I introduced this year focuses squarely on ramping up our federal response to speed up the manufacturing, distribution, and administration of the vaccine. Last week, I introduced the Coronavirus Vaccine and Therapeutic Development Act, which would authorize $20 billion to dramatically boost investments in vaccine and therapeutic development, research, procurement, and expanded manufacturing capacity. This legislation importantly recognizes that some Americans will not be able to receive the vaccine due to medical reasons, but may be eligible to receive antibody therapies and other therapeutic medicines that can greatly reduce the risk of severe disease.

In conjunction with this initiative to boost funding for vaccine administration, in the coming weeks, I plan to introduce bipartisan legislation to modernize our immunization infrastructure systems that are central to our COVID-19 vaccination efforts. These technology systems vary state by state, which complicates an already challenging task of vaccinating our population. My bipartisan bill will bring these systems into the 21st century by expanding enrollment and training of vaccine providers, supporting real-time immunization data exchange, and enhancing the security of data interoperability. This bill would make a meaningful difference to our local vaccination efforts in New Hampshire.

The United States must take an all-hands-on-deck approach to crushing this deadly virus, and that starts with demonstrating leadership and a proactive vision for administering this vaccine. I am encouraged that President Biden’s plan to combat the coronavirus prioritizes the acceleration of vaccine administration and ensures that no American will incur out of pocket costs to receive the vaccine. President Biden’s plan to focus on both the deployment of already-approved vaccines and the development of additional therapies will enhance our efforts in New Hampshire which have so far been disappointingly slow.

While these vaccines offer us a light at the end of the tunnel, it is more important now than ever to continue wearing masks and maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the new virus strains that have emerged in recent weeks. This is a patriotic duty to help keep your fellow Granite Staters safe, as last week we sadly passed the grim milestone of over 400,000 American lives lost to this deadly virus – more than the number of American soldiers who died during World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. Over the past year, our state has shown immeasurable courage and grit to support our neighbors and communities during this challenging time. I know that through our collective strength and commitment to protecting one another, we can get through this pandemic together.

(Annie Kuster represents the 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.)