U.S. Senator Tina Smith, U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood Introduce Bill to Bolster Vaccination Efforts and Keep Families Healthy

WASHINGTON, D.C. [2/11/21]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL 14) recently introduced their Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act, which would support local efforts to boost routine vaccinations, and ensure that immunization providers and local organizations can lead community-specific initiatives to reach all community members, particularly underserved populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we can’t afford to fall behind on routine vaccinations and risk losing progress in preventing once-common diseases, like measles,” said Senator Smith. “This is especially important for children, who are recommended to get pediatric vaccinations at certain stages in their development. In my home state of Minnesota, up-to-date vaccinations have unfortunately declined to less than 50 percent among most children under 2. I’m introducing the Senate companion to Rep. Underwood’s legislation to boost vaccination rates during the pandemic, and will work to move it forward.”

“Illinois communities need more resources to deliver COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible to the people who need them most,” said Rep. Underwood. “I’m leading the Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act to deliver urgently needed resources to public health departments and their local partners to meet the demand for COVID-19 vaccinations and make sure children and adults don’t fall behind on other life-saving vaccines during this pandemic. By investing in community-specific initiatives to increase immunization rates, we can prevent more avoidable disease and save lives.”   

“Especially in the midst of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to invest in our kids’ health. Routine immunizations are a simple, yet powerful way to protect our community as a whole. This bill will provide the needed funding to expand vaccination efforts, whether through disseminating culturally appropriate information or expanding outreach and partnerships, so that we can ensure that every child and family is protected,” said Dr. Marc Gorelick, President and CEO of Children’s Minnesota.

“Immunization rates have fallen drastically during the pandemic, and pediatricians have serious concerns for what it means for the health of children and families. Missing routine immunizations puts our communities at risk of a secondary outbreak while we continue to combat the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act will work to address this concerning trend with urgently needed funding for state and local public health departments to partner with health care providers, schools, vaccine coalitions and other organizations to promote routine immunizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges Congress to swiftly advance this important legislation and thanks Representative Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) and Senator Tina Smith (D.-Minn.) for their ongoing commitment to this issue,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP. 

“To defeat the virus, job one is to get shots into arms. I commend Representative Underwood and Senator Smith for again introducing The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act, which provides much needed funds to accelerate vaccination rates for COVID-19 and build greater confidence in immunization for communities across the nation. When it comes to equitable access to safe and effective vaccinations it should be no holds barred,” said Chip Kahn, President and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals   

“As the public health professionals charged with promoting the health and well-being of women and children nationwide, our members have been monitoring and working to address an alarming decline in routine immunizations during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said Jonathan Webb, CEO of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs. “We applaud Rep. Underwood and Sen. Smith for proposing legislation to help keep our nation, especially our nation’s children, on schedule with routine vaccinations and to lay the groundwork for trusted community outreach regarding approved COVID-19 vaccines.”

The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act—also supported by Reps. Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA 8), Kathy Castor (D-FL 14) and Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH 2)—would:

  • Provide $560 million to build on state, local, and Tribal public health infrastructure to promote routine vaccinations, including through:
    • Partnerships with health care providers, schools, pharmacies, vaccine coalitions, and community-based organizations;
    • Culturally and linguistically appropriate information about vaccines;
    • Outreach to promote health insurance options and immunization programs; and
    • Evaluation of efforts in order to improve initiatives to promote vaccinations.
  • Distribute $2.5 million in funding to develop guidance on a COVID-19 vaccine. 

This legislation is supported by: Children’s Minnesota, Vaccinate Your Family, Blue Shield of California, American Nurses Association, Social Security Works, First Focus Campaign for Children, American Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC), Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Physician Assistant Education Association, HealthConnect One, March of Dimes, Northwestern Medicine, Japanese American Citizens League, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, American Public Health Association, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National League for Nursing, Federation of American Hospitals, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, America’s Essential Hospitals, American Academy of Pediatrics, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Children’s Health Fund, Long Term Care Community Coalition, and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association.