WASHINGTON – Governors are asking President Joe Biden for more say in how the federal government is distributing coronavirus vaccines to local pharmacies and community health centers in their states.
They also want the public to better understand which distribution programs states are running and which ones the federal government controls.
"Due to the anxiety created by the demand and supply of the vaccine, it is imperative that the American people fully understand the process," the executive committee of the National Governors Association wrote in a letter sent to Biden on Monday.
The governors complained that the public reporting on vaccine distribution by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created "unnecessary confusion." They asked that the CDC be clear about which doses are being distributed through state-controlled efforts and which through programs the federal government is handling.
The Trump administration partnered with pharmacies to administer vaccines to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Biden launched programs to send vaccines to select retail pharmacies and federally funded community health centers that serve predominately low-income patients.
Governors said the pharmacy and community health center programs should be coordinated with states, which are better positioned to know the needs of their communities and to assess facilities' ability to administer vaccines.
"As usual, some pharmacies and (community health centers) are better suited for the task than others," they wrote. "If the federal government distributes independently of the states to these same entities without state coordination and consultation, redundancy and inefficiency may very well follow."
Kevin Munoz, a White House spokesperson, said the administration is "discussing these important issues around data and reporting with our nation's governors on an ongoing basis."
"Our strong partnership with states over the last several weeks is helping us vaccinate more people," Munoz said in an email, "and we look forward to continuing to be a strong, receptive federal partner as we work with the relevant stakeholders to improve our data and reporting."
That includes enhancing Tiberius, the government's tracking software, so states can better see what's happening. Localities can also now submit data on priority groups for the federal pharmacy program.
Biden has promised to work closely with governors as he accelerates the vaccine distribution process that began under President Donald Trump. He met with a group of governors and mayors last week. His coronavirus task force holds weekly calls with governors.
The administration has increased the amount of vaccines going to states and given governors a three-week forecast so they have more time to prepare distribution plans.
"We understand the pressure the governors are under," Andy Slavitt, Biden’s senior adviser for COVID-19 response, told reporters last week. "We are taking a collaborative approach as much as possible."
States have faced questions about why some are distributing vaccines faster than others.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat and chair of the National Governors Association, emphasized Monday there are multiple distribution points.
Cuomo said better coordination is needed in part so state and local governments aren't sending vaccines to the same places.
"If the federal government is sending to CVS," he said during a news conference, "I don't send to CVS."