State vaccination plans are due today

The White House responded today to yesterday’s request from the National Governors Association to meet with the president for “guidance and clarification” on the role states will play in distributing COVID-19 vaccines, once available.

As chairman of the association, Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, along with Vice Chair Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, sent a letter on Thursday to Donald Trump, requesting a meeting to delineate federal and state responsibilities, the funding needs associated with those responsibilities, and the planned supply-chain management and vaccine-allocation process.

Cuomo told the press in a conference call yesterday he believes there will be distrust of the vaccine because “there is distrust about this federal administration’s reliance or lack thereof on science.”

With the looming presidential election, where Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has become a central issue, Douglas L. Hoelscher, assistant to the president and director of Intergovernmental Affairs, responded to Cuomo and Hutchinson’s letter, saying Operation Warp Speed “is accelerating safe therapies and vaccines at the fastest pace in human history thanks to President Trump’s leadership and American innovation.”

The letter says the Trump administration has hosted 39 governors-only briefings. “This ongoing dialogue is part of the most extensive Federal-State collaboration in our Nation’s history, a collaboration for which you have both personally thanked the President and Vice President,” writes Hoelscher.

He also calls out Cuomo, saying he has “missed the last 17 governors-only briefings.”

Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to Cuomo, responded, through an email to The Enterprise, “We learned early on that the White House calls were a total waste of time and nothing more than political propaganda, using elected officials as props to heap praise on the President and deny the virus’ existence.  What the Governors of this nation actually require is a substantive operational discussion on policy and programming.”

Hoelscher concludes his letter to Cuomo and Hutchinson by saying the Health and Human Services team “has already reached out to begin coordinating a meeting between you both, Secretary [of Health and Human Services Alex] Azar and other relevant officials.”

Natalie Baldassarre, a special assistant to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for Health and Human Services, emailed The Enterprise on Friday, asking The Enterprise to update Thursday’s story, “Govs want to meet with Trump for guidance on vaccines.”

She included information “on background” from Health and Human Services, noting that vaccination plans are due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today, Oct. 16, and stating, “all jurisdictions appear to be on target to meet the deadline.”

The documents are to be updated as “the response shifts due to known variables such as vaccine allocations, vaccine shipment dates, and changes in priority populations.”

On Sept. 16, jurisdictions were sent a Playbook by the CDC, which has since answered nearly 400 distinct questions from states, according to the information sent by Baldassarre. Within the next two weeks, the CDC will review the plans and provide feedback. It will also post summaries of each plan later this month.

The background information concludes, “Additionally, some federal entities including the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Department of State have created and will submit for review draft vaccination plans because they will be receiving direct vaccine allocations.”

Asked by The Enterprise how many jurisdictions had submitted plans by Friday evening, Baldassarre emailed information, but asked that it be attributed to “HHS spox,” meaning a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services: “According to the CDC, all 64 jurisdictions were expected to be able to submit their plans today.”

Asked about the anticipated date for vaccines to be ready for distribution, she wrote that “vaccine doses will be ready to distribute when the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] authorizes or approves one.”

The New York Times reported Friday evening that an announcement by Pfizer rules out Trump’s assertion that a coronavirus vaccine would be ready before Election Day, and also reports that more than 1,000 current and former epidemic intelligence officers from the CDC have signed an open letter decrying the politicization of the agency and calling for it to be restored to its “indispensable role” in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Editor’s note: Sources sometimes provide information “on background,” but a news organization must agree to that condition. Natalie Baldassarre did not ask The Enterprise to agree to that condition. The Enterprise uses confidential sources only in rare instances. Sharing public information is not one of those instances.

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