WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – As more and more U.S. officials get the COVID-19 vaccine, Congress approved and the president signed into law billions of dollars to give the rest of the country a shot in the arm.
“There’s money in there for vaccine distribution… money in there for purchase of vaccines,” said. Rep. Michael Guest, R-MS.
Guest said those are two main reasons he voted Monday for the $900 billion relief package. It includes funds states have been wanting for months, more than $8 billion to get the vaccine out of the warehouses and into the clinics.
“So that we can get it to the frontline healthcare workers as fast as possible and then out to the American people,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.
Birx said that money will allow states to hire and train additional personnel to vaccinate people, and set up large immunization centers.
“Where people can come like drive-thru testing and get vaccinated,” she said.
The relief bill also includes $20 billion to help the federal government fulfill its promise to make the vaccine free for anyone who wants it. It will fund deals with drug companies, including one with Pfizer to purchase an additional 100 million doses.
“Those discussions and negotiations are ongoing and progressing very well,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief advisor for Operation Warp Speed, said during a briefing Monday.
With two vaccines approved and two more in the pipeline, Guest said he is hopeful Congress will not have to pass another relief bill.
“As we see how quickly we’re able to roll out the vaccine, how quickly the economy is able to recover, there may be a need for us to reevaluate once again,” he said.
The vaccine is still on track to be widely available by summer.
States will also receive about $22 billion for testing and contact tracing efforts in the new package.