Harder Pushes for Federal Vaccine Partnerships, Clarity for Central Valley Clinics
WASHINGTON — Last week, Rep. Josh Harder (CA-10) sent a letter to Acting HRSA Administrator Espinosa and CDC Director Walensky advocating Community Health Centers in his district be selected as federal partners for vaccine distribution and additionally, seek clarification regarding specific details of the program. Despite the disproportionate infection and fatality rates in San Joaquin and Stanislaus County, both counties continue to receive an unequal and inadequate supply of vaccines compared to other parts of the state
“Every minute wasted is another infection, another sickness, and another tragic death in the Central Valley.” said Rep. Harder. “We know our food and agriculture workers are twice as likely to die from this pandemic as the average working adult, and yet we’ve received half as many doses as the wealthiest California counties. The question is: are we going to be prioritized or are we going to be ignored?”
The text of the letter is below and an original version is available here.
Dear Acting Administrator Espinosa and Director Walensky,
As the top officials overseeing the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I write to bring to your attention the unacceptable lack of responsiveness from both your agencies on a top concern of mine regarding the lives of my constituents. I seek immediate clarification if the Golden Valley Health Center in my District has been selected as a federal partner for vaccine distribution and if not, then I urge your agencies to partner with a Community Health Center (CHC) in California’s 10th Congressional District, a region that has been hardest hit by the pandemic.
Let me be clear, for my District, every minute without vaccines matters. It means Central Valley lives are forgotten and left behind. This is no time for delays. That is why your lack of responsiveness to my staff’s inquiries is simply unacceptable. If the Golden Valley Community Health Center in California’s 10th District has not been approved for the federal partnership program, then I urge your agencies to partner with a CHC in our District, helping provide vaccines to a vulnerable region with high poverty rates and many Latino farmworkers on the frontlines of exposure to the virus. This region has been devastated by the coronavirus since day one of the pandemic.
My district has the third highest coronavirus deaths per capita in the state and the current spike in cases has overwhelmed our hospitals. Selecting one of the CHCs in our District would help the Administration achieve its goal of serving underserved populations, which our CHCs do each and every day. Our CHCs have a proven track record of serving the most in need populations, including Medi-Cal patients—which account for more than three-fourths of all of patients treated— and over 50,000 agricultural and migrant farmworkers, predominantly from low-income and Latino backgrounds.
While I am pleased to hear that you are looking to partner with a health center in Fresno, California, my constituents need a partnership closer to home. For many in my District who lack access to reliable transportation, the roundtrip commute to Fresno of more than four hours is simply not feasible. I urge you to partner with CHCs in our District to help get vaccines to people in more parts of the Valley.
In a region that is too often overlooked by federal programs and assistance, our CHCs are ready to serve through the Community Health Centers Vaccination Program. These facilities have been vaccinating patients and they are prepared to utilize any additional vaccines to continue their work in the Central Valley. I look forward to your timely response to this critical matter and ensuring CHCs get the COVID-19 vaccine to the Valley.