Meng, Espaillat, and Tonko Urge Biden Administration to Include Doctors Offices in National Coronavirus Vaccine Strategy

Mar 17, 2021
Press Release
Lawmakers send letter to COVID-19 Response Coordinator as demographic data on access to the vaccine shows increasing disparity among minority communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (NY-06), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), and Paul Tonko (NY-20) announced today that they sent a letter to COVID-19 Response Coordinator and Counselor to the President Jeffrey Zients calling for the inclusion of office-based clinicians, including primary care physicians, into the national COVID-19 vaccine administration plan in order to address demographic gaps in access to the vaccine, and to combat existing hesitancy to receiving the shots across urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Office-based clinicians and primary care physicians are uniquely situated to address these concerns. They are highly trusted by their patients and play a pivotal role administering the flu vaccine and other vaccines. Primary care clinicians can also play a vital role in educating and counseling patients on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to patients who may be especially hesitant to receive it.

“Every American must have easy access to the COVID-19 vaccine from a trusted health care provider. I applaud President Biden’s ongoing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and his recent push to have every adult in the United States eligible for a vaccine by May 1st. To achieve this goal and maximize the number of vaccinated individuals, it is critical for the COVID-19 vaccination strategy to include established institutions like office-based clinicians and primary care physicians,” said Rep. Meng. “The demographic data on who has received a vaccine show a growing and troubling trend of minority communities having less access to the shots, no matter if they are in urban, rural, and suburban settings. Additionally, there are Americans who are hesitant to receive the vaccine. Including office-based clinicians would go a long way toward addressing equity in vaccine access and debunking myths about the vaccine. I look forward to receiving a swift response to our letter.”

“Over the past year, we witnessed the impact of COVID-19 on our nation and its disparate impact on our most vulnerable populations, specifically communities of color, seniors, those with limited mobility, and immigrants,” said Rep. Espaillat. “As eligibility requirements expand, we must ensure that all local city and state healthcare providers can receive and administer the vaccine to their patients, especially those who rely on their local and trusted office-based provider. Providing the vaccine and dedicated resources to community-based clinicians will be critical in our ability to vaccinate individuals and get our nation back on track and to re-open our communities safely.”

“With dangerous new variants spreading throughout the nation, the speed of America’s vaccine distribution has become a matter of life and death and needs to be treated as an absolute priority,” said Rep. Tonko. “I will continue to push the White House and every federal agency to put every available resource into this effort including giving office-based clinicians full capacity to administer these vaccines. I am proud to stand with my friends Representatives Meng and Espaillat and our fellow letter signers urging President Biden to take this critical, common sense step in that effort.”

“While the nation has made great strides in accelerating vaccine distribution and administration, it is vitally important to better incorporate physician offices into the overarching strategy of getting shots into arms. Reps. Meng, Espaillat, and Tonko correctly highlight that office-based physicians, especially primary care physicians, can help ensure all Americans, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or geographic location, have equal access to life-saving vaccines for COVID-19,” said Susan R. Bailey, M.D., President of the American Medical Association. “In addition to facilitating more equitable access, we applaud these members of the New York delegation for pointing out to the Biden Administration the important role physicians can play in helping patients overcome vaccine hesitancy.”

“All Americans deserve timely and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Alarmingly, communities of color, including Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, have less access to vaccines, and at times face higher rates of vaccine hesitancy, said Juliet K. Choi, President and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “We commend Reps. Meng, Espaillat and Tonko for their leadership to address the systemic inequities of our nation’s vaccination rollout and to offer a brilliant solution and a step in the right direction to help ensure all of our communities are safer and healthier.”

“Equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine must be at the heart of our national vaccination strategy if we are to put the pandemic behind us,” said Elena Rios, MD, MSPH, FACP, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association. “Already, we are behind in this goal and communities of color, seniors, and those who are immobile are falling behind in getting vaccinated. To address this issue, we need the Biden Administration to ensure patients can go to their doctors who they trust to answer their questions, and ultimately, receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Thanks to the leadership of Reps. Meng, Espaillat, and Tonko, we are closer to this goal.”

"Improving vaccine access and confidence are linked by one's usual source of primary care within office-based practices," said Leon McDougle, MD, MPH, 121st President of the National Medical Association.

“Family physicians are trusted by our patients and well-positioned to administer the COVID-19 vaccine and help improve access in our communities. Recent research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that most patients would prefer to get their COVID-19 vaccine from their own physician’s office, so family physicians and other primary care physicians must be an integral part of any vaccine distribution plans,” said Dr. Ada Stewart, President of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The letter is supported by the American Medical Association (AMA), National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA), Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), National Medical Association (NMA), Black Coalition Against COVID-19, National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians (NCAPIP), National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA), Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

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