New FQHC Vaccination Program
NACHC At Work for You: HRSA Announces New FQHC Vaccination Program
Dear Members and Colleagues:
I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the Biden Administration’s plan to expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations to underserved and vulnerable populations through a new Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) Vaccination Program. A critical part of this effort is to distribute vaccines directly to Federally Qualified Health Centers.
As trusted, proven community-based health care providers, the plan recognizes our health centers as a solution to bring vaccine equity to our nation’s most vulnerable people and communities. We are very pleased that FQHCs will now be part of a larger and hopefully more effective effort to get vaccines, supplies and ultimately vaccinations to health center patients and other people in the communities where health centers serve. We know that many of you are currently involved in vaccine efforts at the local and state levels. It should therefore be noted that the new FQHC Vaccination Program does not replace any of the partnerships (i.e., churches/faith-based organizations and others) in which your health center may currently be involved. Keep working with your public and private partners, as well. The new federal program that starts this week not only presents our health centers the opportunity to once again protect our community residents in a major public health crisis, but also to expand access to badly needed primary and preventive care services to more people who currently do not have a quality health care home.
We very much anticipate more critical details about the new program, but this is what we know thus far:
- As announced by HRSA, the Federally Qualified Health Centers Vaccine Program will be launched this week. According to the agency, the health centers that will initially receive vaccines and have been selected by a variety of criteria such as those that serve significant numbers of hard-to-reach populations – i.e., people who are experiencing homelessness; seasonal and agricultural workers or people who have limited English proficiency. Vaccine storage capacity is another criteria consideration.
- HRSA also says the total number of health centers to initially receive vaccines over next 4-5 weeks will be 250. Note: As of this writing, the list of health centers selected has not been released.
- And following this first phase, HRSA will work as quickly as possible to extend direct distribution of vaccines to all community health centers who are positioned to administer the vaccination program.
The new FQHC Vaccination Program provides the opportunity once again to prove our health centers have the “right stuff” as key players in the public heath arena, deserving of ongoing public and private support. To that end, it will be important that all health centers:
- Continue, along with our partner PCAs, to track and submit COVID-19 data to HRSA/BPHC on a weekly basis.
- Step up efforts in providing the stories behind the data to NACHC and PCAs to show the Administration, policymakers, the media and other influencers your efforts and how they are making a positive difference.
To support your work in the field in the coming weeks and months ahead, NACHC will continue to closely monitor your feedback about your needs and concerns, and submit that feedback to the White House and federal officials — and provide you up-to-date information and implementation details about the new Vaccination Program. Check in with us regularly at www.nachc.org and look for special information alerts. We will also support health center vaccination efforts by sharing peer-to-peer best practices through the Health Center Resource Clearinghouse and our ongoing “Office Hours” offerings.
The Biden Administration’s Federally Qualified Health Centers Vaccine Program is a direct result of our health centers’ successful 50+ year track record of reaching and caring for the country’s most vulnerable and being part of the solution when crises occur. Let’s work together and show them what you do so well!
P.S. Please note a letter from the Executive Committee of the National Governors Association was sent today to the Biden Administration regarding vaccine distribution. The letter specifically mentions federal distribution efforts to FQHCs, long-term care facilities and pharmacies and calls for more coordination with state governments. The governors state that without that coordination, these direct distribution programs may be redundant and inefficient. NACHC has been in touch with HRSA regarding the FQHC Vaccination Program and will continue to monitor the situation as it is ramps up. Our goal is and will continue to be to ensure access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for the communities and people we care for.
Best regards, Tom VanCoverden
President & CEO