U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., increased political pressure on congressional leaders Tuesday to include legislation in the next federal COVID-19 package to train a national health force to ensure an approved coronavirus vaccine will be equitably available for all Americans.

Gillibrand sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; to include the Health Force and Resilience Force proposal.

The proposal, led by Gillibrand and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and supported by Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz, of Hawaii, and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, who all signed the letter, would invest $40 billion in local public health infrastructure to create a national health force of hundreds of thousands of Americans to bolster the U.S. health system to ensure equitable distribution of a COVID-19 immunization.

“We’re asking leadership to recognize, as we prepare for the distribution of safe vaccines against COVID-19, (that) we will need a public workforce to make those plans reality,” Gillibrand said during a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Pfizer and Moderna announced last week their respective experimental COVID-19 inoculations are nearly 95% effective. British drugmaker AstraZeneca revealed Monday a vaccine under development with Oxford University appears to be up to 90% effective.

Several developing COVID-19 vaccines require each person receive two doses 21 to 28 days apart, some of which need to be refrigerated at minus 80 degrees Celsius.

Pfizer, a Manhattan-based drugmaker, is working to secure emergency use of its immunization to allow for expedited national distribution.

“I know everyone is looking forward to normal days and looking forward to do normal work,” Gillibrand said. “An effective vaccine will play a major role in that. First, we have to get it distributed nationwide.”

Successfully distributing a coronavirus vaccine to all Americans requires the additional force of medical personnel, Gillibrand said, because doctors and nurses are battling surging COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide.

Largely Democratic state and federal lawmakers have expressed concerns that the distribution plan by President Donald Trump’s administration, which relies on big-box pharmaceutical companies such as Walgreens or CVS, would disproportionately overlook poor and minority communities most impacted by the pandemic.

The health force would create community-based public health jobs and resources to improve vaccine education and outreach in every area across the state and nation, including small rural towns upstate, to meet the unprecedented demand.

“(Health force officials) would distribute vaccines, debunk myths and perceptions surrounding the vaccine and provide data entry support,” Gillibrand said.

The public education effort would help ensure patients receive the required number of vaccine doses within the necessary time frame.

The specially designated health force would use community health centers, senior centers and other similar local facilities to reach the smallest and poorest communities — especially areas upstate and across the north country, Gillibrand said.

Similar community vaccine health programs have improved immunization rates in the past. More than 1,000 community health workers with New York City’s Start Right Coalition provided education about child vaccinations, raising child vaccination rates to 80% and to 97% after five years, Gillibrand said.

“We need that kind of participation rate for the vaccination effort to be effective,” she said.

The Health Force plan would help address the economic crisis plaguing every state across the nation by hiring hundreds of thousands of people.

The proposal is inspired by the Works Progress Administration program, an American New Deal agency from the Great Depression, which employed millions of Americans to complete various public works projects.

“(The Health Force) helps create jobs, fosters trust in the programs themselves and develops a much-needed pipeline in medical jobs for people of color who, for far too long, have been unrepresented in the field,” Gillibrand said, adding it would provide a pathway for people to get experience to go on to become doctors, nurses and pharmacists. “It addresses the alarming racial and health disparities exacerbated by this pandemic to prepare America against future health threats.”

The senator expects both Republican and Democratic lawmakers will support the plan, which is not partisan, she said. President-elect Joe Biden’s team has voiced support for the proposal.

“If we can get to the negotiating table between now and the end of the year, this is the kind of proposal that would be included,” Gillibrand said. “Whether we can include it before the break, we’ll certainly try to get a piece of it in now. We don’t need to get the whole $40 billion in one day, but you need to start organizing it. This is the legislation to support that vehicle.”

Gillibrand dismissed recent statements by Trump claiming New York will not receive shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine once approved after Gov. Andrew Cuomo cast doubt that Trump and his administration would approve a safe and effective immunization.

“There’s not a chance we won’t get the vaccine,” Gillibrand said. “That was false bravado and meanness on behalf of the president. There’s no basis in fact. There’s no world where New Yorkers will not be eligible for the vaccine like any other state.”

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(12) comments

Holmes

More identity politics and just what we don’t need is another government agency. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” RR, the most terrifying words there are. Take it out of the government and let the drug companies handle the process.

"We are going to put together our own review committee that will advise me, so i can look at the camera and I can say, 'It is safe to take,'" Cuomo

"I'm not going to trust the federal government's opinion and I wouldn't recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government's opinion," Cuomo not Trump.... Nice try, Gillibrand.

Eagle24

Holmes engaging in Covid discussion trashing Cuomo and Gillibrand yet silent on POTUS's comments... "we've turned the corner"... "it'll magically go away".. “rounding the corner” and “rounding the final turn”.. doesn't pass the straight face test...

Pitbull

When pushed into a corner, always resort to reflex....its Trumps fault!

KRobbins

When pushed into a corner, always resort to reflex....its Trumps fault!

As opposed to the cry from the right that it’s never Trump’s fault and that if he lost the election resort to election fraud fantasies.

The president bears some responsibility for Covid deaths. It occurred on his watch. Does that mean nothing? And Cuomo is not to blame for the 230,000 deaths outside of NY. Unless you listen to Elise Stefanik anyway.

KRobbins

Reagan also said, “Trust, but verify.”

He was a governor before becoming president. I have a hard time believing he would’ve just ignored and tried to lie away the virus like Trump did. I didn’t agree with Reagan much but he at least surrounded himself with competent people and listened to them. He didn’t put his kids and son-in-law in place as his chief advisers.

Pitbull

You should march right down to the recruiting station and volunteer for the Health Force! Krobbins is now quoting Reagan. I put this in the same category that contains your live of John McCain.

rdsouth

It doesn't matter who gets it first, what matters is the number of people who get it. More people with resistance means the virus will be conducted less easily through the population and it will stall out. That reduced prevalence benefits everyone, even those who haven't been vaccinated.

hermit thrush

that aside, there is a real advantage to vulnerable people and healthcare workers getting the vaccine first.

KRobbins

Russians, Iranians, Chinese and whatever other bad actors will be on social media pushing anti-vaxxer nonsense. People that wear red hats and hang MAGA brand flags in front of their houses will see it as a Bill Gates-George Soros-Hugo Chávez plot and not get vaccinated. And yes, I realize there are anti-vaxxers on the left too. Jill Stein pushed that along with plenty of other wingnuttery.

Considering the margin of victory for the Trump/Stefanik ticket upstate I’ve gotta wonder how many will roll up their sleeves.

Pitbull

I've had alot of them, including 4 Anthrax vaxxes. The first of those grew a golf ball sized knot on my arm and felt like I just had surgery. It made me ill but I quickly recovered. I have a "MAGA brand" flag in my yard and Ill get the vax as soon as I can.

KRobbins

I have a "MAGA brand" flag in my yard and Ill get the vax as soon as I can.

👏

It still doesn’t address that many people on the extremes won’t and that is going to harm our efforts to get to herd immunity. And part of the reason will be that many in this country have been conditioned to believe nonsense. If anything, that’s a bigger and more dangerous pandemic than Covid.

Pitbull

You are absolutely right, rdsouth.

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