Readout of HHS Secretary Becerra’s Meeting with National Public Health Leaders on Vaccines for COVID, flu and RSV
Secretary Becerra reiterated HHS commitment to continued partnership with public health leaders and advocates to encourage communities to receive updated COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines this holiday season.
On Wednesday, November 15th, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra met virtually with 130 public health leaders representing dozens of health and consumer advocacy groups to discuss how HHS will continue to partner with the private sector to encourage individuals to receive their updated COVID-19 as well as other respiratory seasonal vaccinations to protect themselves and their loved ones this holiday season.
During the meeting, Secretary Becerra highlighted the results of the important work being done to provide the American people with updated COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines and COVID-19 test kits. Since the updated COVID-19 vaccines rollout through the commercial market, HHS and commercial sector partners have made the following progress to keep Americans protected this respiratory virus season:
- More than 20 million Americans have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine.
- 27.2 million vaccines have shipped to pharmacies and other locations.
- 1.45 million vaccines have been ordered through CDC’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which provides vaccines to half of American children. Over 37,000 orders for pediatric Covid-19 vaccines have been placed by VFC providers.
- 56 million tests have been delivered to U.S. households so far thanks to COVIDTests.gov
Secretary Becerra expressed his appreciation to public health leaders for continuing to support COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccination efforts. Secretary Becerra encouraged groups to continue outreach to communities, families, and individuals, especially senior citizens, to receive their vaccinations prior to family gatherings this holiday season. He also reminded public health groups of the remarkable progress - including more than 700 million vaccinations in the United States – we’ve made together since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In her remarks, Dr. Hughes discussed the actions HHS has taken through CMS to provide coverage for COVID, flu, and RSV vaccines. She noted that individuals with Medicare Part B and those with Medicaid have their flu and COVID-19 vaccines covered without cost sharing. Additionally, individuals with private plan coverage through the Marketplace are covered for vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) without patient cost-sharing, including those for COVID-19.
Furthermore, she also highlighted changes due to the Inflation Reduction Act, which require the new RSV vaccine be made available without cost sharing for those with Medicare Part D plans. During the meeting, Dr. Hughes continuously underscored the importance for everyone who is eligible to get covered during the current Medicare and Marketplace open enrollment seasons to help protect their health and receive peace of mind.
Following Dr. Hughes, Dr. Shah detailed actions the CDC has taken to ensure everyone is protected during respiratory virus season and shared the latest CDC recommendations for Americans regarding the COVID, flu, and RSV vaccines. CDC recommends that everyone who is eligible should receive all three vaccines. However, Dr. Shah recommended that individuals aged 60 or over, pregnant people, infants, and young children talk to doctors about the new RSV vaccine to help determine if it is right for them.
Dr. Shah discussed the CDC’s new Bridge Access Program which partners with chain pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS to ensure those without health insurance can receive a COVID vaccine at no cost. Dr. Shah reported that just through the pharmacy channel, more than 524,000 people have already received their vaccine, and he encouraged everyone to visit vaccines.gov to find more information about finding a vaccine under the Bridge Access Program.
The Biden-Harris Administration has made historic progress in our nation’s ability to manage COVID-19 so that it no longer meaningfully disrupts the way we live our lives. We have more tools and systems available to help protect families and communities as they head into the holidays, including:
- Safe vaccines for all three major fall and winter respiratory viruses – COVID, flu, and RSV – go to vaccines.gov to find one near you
- Widely available at-home COVID tests –available at COVIDTests.gov
- And widely available, effective COVID treatments
HHS has a strong record of partnering with public health leaders across the nation to respond to COVID-19 and other seasonal vaccination needs. It is a priority for this Administration to ensure that Americans – regardless of their income or health insurance status – can access vaccines free of charge, including the uninsured through the Bridge Access Program.
Additionally, CDC has taken steps to make the immunization – a monoclonal antibody – more accessible for doctors to order through the Vaccines for Children program, which provides vaccines to half of America’s children.
CDC and FDA have been engaged with groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, to encourage more doctors to use the RSV maternal vaccine, which can help ensure babies are protected against RSV before they are born. Moreover, CDC has been in regular contact with clinicians across the country, encouraging them to prioritize nirsevimab for infants at highest risk during this period of constrained supply.
Dr. Stephen Cha closed the meeting by thanking all on the call for their work to help provide widely accessible and affordable COVID, flu, and RSV vaccines. Dr. Cha reiterated the need for private sector partners to make updated information on vaccines readily available to their members, educate their staff on the latest vaccine guidance, and offer the resources needed to ensure all communities can receive their vaccines.
The following representatives participated in the meeting:
- HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra
- Dora Hughes, M.D., M.P.H., Acting Chief Medical Officer and Acting Director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D., Principal Deputy Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Stephen Cha, M.D., Counselor to Secretary Becerra