Underwood, Schrier, Castor, Kuster Introduce New Legislation to Boost Vaccination Rates and Keep Families Healthy During the Coronavirus Pandemic

August 17, 2020
Press Release
The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act responds to an alarming decline in immunization rates for life-saving vaccines

WASHINGTON— Today, Representatives Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), Kathy Castor (FL-14), and Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02) introduced new legislation to reverse the dangerous decrease in vaccination rates, which have plummeted during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act (H.R. 8061) makes critical investments to develop, scale, and evaluate local initiatives to promote recommended vaccinations during this pandemic. The legislation also supports preparations for the eventual COVID-19 vaccine, ensuring that immunization providers and local organizations can lead community-specific initiatives that will reach all community members, particularly underserved populations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), immunization rates for life-saving vaccines have fallen significantly during the pandemic as Americans have attempted to avoid exposure to COVID-19. The CDC has issued important guidance to encourage Americans to keep up with recommended immunization schedules during the public health emergency. As the United States prepares for the upcoming flu season, the legislation ensures that children, adolescents, and adults can receive the vaccines they need to protect themselves and their communities.

“As flu season gets underway and the coronavirus continues to spread, we must take action now to address the alarming decline in immunization rates,” said Rep. Underwood. I’m introducing the Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act to ensure that communities have the resources they need to avoid outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, mitigate the severity of the seasonal flu as we continue to battle this pandemic, and prepare for a future COVID-19 vaccine. By investing in community-specific initiatives to increase immunization rates, we can help keep children, families, adults, and communities safe and protected during this pandemic.”

“As a pediatrician, I am concerned about the decrease in routine immunizations children have gotten during the pandemic. Part of this hesitation is due to misinformation. The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act is similar to another bill we worked on together that I introduced during 2019 measles outbreaks, the VACCINES Act- that increases information from trusted sources about vaccines to improve immunization rates. This is especially important in the face of this pandemic. When we finally have a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, the Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act will ensure that we have a robust information campaign to get Americans to understand why they should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Immunizations protect us and our community as a whole,” said Rep. Schrier.  

“Immunizations are critical to safeguarding families and the public health. The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act promotes vaccinations, especially in underserved communities, during the current public health crisis. In partnership with Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, I spearheaded an effort to increase HPV vaccinations, and have seen firsthand the value of immunization outreach and education. I salute U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood for her leadership in this effort and know that if we all work together and heed the advice of public health experts, families will benefit and our neighbors will lead safe and healthy lives,” said Rep. Castor.

“I am deeply concerned that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, immunization rates for vaccine-preventable diseases have dramatically declined. We must ensure that children, adolescents, and adults continue to receive recommended immunizations, and that local public health departments and providers are prepared for a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available. I am proud to join Congresswoman Underwood on this legislation that will help to ensure that every American – especially in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus – can continue to access routine immunizations safely, and have full confidence in a COVID vaccine when one is available,” said Rep. Kuster.

The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act would:

  • Provide $560 million to state and local public health departments to promote Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices-recommended vaccinations during the COVID-19 public health emergency through:
    • Establishing and strengthening partnerships with health care providers, schools, pharmacies, vaccine coalitions, and community-based organizations;
    • Developing culturally and linguistically appropriate information about vaccines and disseminating throughout communities;
    • Conducting outreach to promote health insurance options and immunization programs like Vaccines for Children;
    • Supporting preparations for the distribution of the future COVID-19 vaccine; and
    • Evaluating efforts to improve the effectiveness of future initiatives to promote vaccinations.
  • Fund the development and dissemination of vaccine counseling guidance for community immunization providers to be able to effectively communicate with patients about an eventual COVID-19 vaccine once a vaccine has been approved.

A summary of the legislation can be found here.

Bill text can be found here.

The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act has gained support from more than 60 public health and health care organizations across the country and throughout Illinois, including the National League for Nursing, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, Adult Vaccine Access Coalition, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The full list of endorsing organizations can be found here.

“ICAAP is thrilled to work with Rep. Underwood and others to promote the safety and efficacy of vaccines,” said Dr. Anita Chandra-Puri with the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “With fewer children receiving their recommended vaccines during this COVID pandemic, we continue to work reaching out to families to catch up on the vaccines we know can stop the outbreak of vaccine preventable disease.  This national effort will provide a consistent message to the public – vaccines are safe and effective.”

“The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act will provide essential support for vaccine providers and advocates as they work to promote public health messaging and one-on-one communication about the need to stay up to date with recommended immunizations in the COVID-19 environment.  A few extra minutes with older adults who may have concerns about the vaccines could be critical in helping everyone do what they can to protect their health, and with that, lower odds of vaccine preventable disease, hospitalization, disability, or death,” said Patricia D’Antonio, Adult Vaccine Access Coalition (AVAC) Co-Chair and GSA Vice President of Professional Affairs.

“We cannot add an epidemic to a pandemic,” said Amy Pisani, Executive Director of Vaccinate Your Family. “Immunization rates have dropped precipitously among children, adolescents, and adults as many people stayed home and skipped routine vaccination visits. The Community Immunity during COVID-19 Act will provide a vital infusion of resources into local efforts to raise vaccination rates as students return to school and flu season arrives.”