Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward joined more than 100 of the nation’s mayors this week in requesting the federal government allocate vaccines directly to cities.
The letter, signed Monday, asks the Biden administration to bypass states and send COVID-19 vaccines straight to the hands of city governments, which the mayors argue are better-equipped to respond to the needs of their communities.
The letter originated from the United States Conference of Mayors. Its signers represent a broad political spectrum that, in Washington, includes the mayors of Seattle, Everett and Spokane.
The statement calls out “gaps” in vaccine distribution across the country, particularly when it comes to marginalized communities, that are confirmed by data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We see and do not accept the troubling pattern emerging nationwide showing that people of color and vulnerable populations do not have sufficient access to the vaccine,” the letter states.
The letter also asks Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine production and bolster stockpiles of testing and treatment supplies.
“As locally elected officials, we know our communities,” Woodward said during her weekly video update on city operations on Tuesday. “In partnership with local public health officials, we can help direct vaccines where they’re needed most.”
Under the current system, the city does not receive direct allocations of vaccine doses from either the state or federal government.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocates doses to states as well as federally qualified health centers, Indigenous tribes, the federal pharmacy program and pharmacies administering doses in long-term care facilities.
Spokane does not have a firm plan for how it would get shots into arms should Biden heed its request.
If the city were to receive vaccine doses directly it could allocate them through its own first responders or partner with a local health care provider, according to city spokesman Brian Coddington.
During a Spokane City Council study session on Thursday, Council President Breean Beggs asked Sarah Nuss, the city’s director of emergency management, how the city would react should Biden respond favorably to the mayors’ request.
“Realistically, if we were to receive vaccines directly as a municipality, it would likely need to be done under the guise of a medical officer, which we don’t necessarily have as a city,” Nuss explained.
The city would need to work with the Spokane Regional Health District or the fire department’s medical officer to determine how the city could receive and allocate vaccines, Nuss said.
Factors at play include the city’s capacity to warehouse the vaccines which, depending on the type, can require ultracold storage. There are also reporting requirements for providers that administer vaccines.
Nuss said she is drafting a report detailing what the city’s role could be in vaccine distribution.
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