All Levels of Government Must Work Together for an Effective COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

As the political pendulum in Washington swings in a different direction, one thing remains the same: the commitment of the federal, state and local governments to safely and effectively distribute a COVID-19 vaccine to all of our residents. There is no question the initial vaccine rollout has had its challenges. But out of the challenge, we see an opportunity to strengthen the intergovernmental partnership, and work together to deliver the vaccine to residents in a manner that is both equitable and efficient.

Counties invest heavily in local residents’ health and well-being and have been on the front lines of our nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic since day one. Our role in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is evident in the wide range of responsibilities we hold in preserving the local health safety net. Counties support over 900 hospitals, 824 long-term care facilities and 1,943 local health departments. As trusted voices, we are often responsible for communicating timely, accurate vaccine updates to the public. And we must combat vaccine hesitancy in all populations with factual and relevant messaging that reaches all communities.

Counties need strong intergovernmental partnerships in this unprecedented vaccine rollout. We remain committed to working with our state, federal and other local government partners. First, we must look to the federal government to provide the resources and infrastructure needed to support and plan local distribution efforts through direct and flexible federal assistance to counties, clear communication and a national strategy that distinguishes roles at all levels of government, in all stages of distribution. Secondly, we must work with our state and other local government partners to pool resources, equitably and appropriately divide responsibilities, and develop clear and consistent messaging for residents on vaccine safety, and when and how to receive the vaccine.

We cannot return to normal without winning the public health fight, and the vaccine is a game-changing tool in our arsenal. It is through our collective efforts that we will ensure seamless coordination of distribution, and it is how we will ultimately end this pandemic together.

Blaire Bryant, Associate Legislative Director for Health, National Association of Counties (NACo)