Members of Congress seek ban on preferential vaccine access
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — More than two dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives have called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ban health care providers from offering special access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The Seattle Times reported Friday that Washington Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, and Suzan DelBene, D-Medina organized and wrote the Thursday to HHS acting secretary Norris Cochran.
The letter asks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add an “explicit ban on preferential access” to the agreement that vaccine providers must sign with the federal government before they can receive and administer vaccine.
The letter cited reporting in several states, including Washington, that found instances of special access to those with influence.
The Seattle Times reported in January that three medical systems in the region — Providence Regional Medical Center, Overlake Medical Center & Clinics and EvergreenHealth — gave special access to major donors or foundation board members, raising concerns about whether the state could equitably administer vaccine doses.
Last week, the Washington health department clamped down, telling vaccine providers that VIP scheduling, exclusive appointments or providing other special access would not be tolerated and threatened to reduce supplies if providers were caught.
The request by the members of Congress would increase pressure, and potential consequences, for vaccine providers who offer preferential access to taxpayer-funded vaccines.
For those in violation of its vaccine provider agreement, the federal government could pursue legal action or cut vaccine supply, according to the CDC’s vaccine playbook.
“… No similar federal ban exists applicable to providers across the country and those that receive vaccines directly from CDC,” the letter says. “It is critical that HHS establish appropriate mechanisms of oversight to ensure this does not become a recurring incident.”
The members also asked HHS for a report on how the agency will “establish greater accountability for these types of grievances and others.”