Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., speaks during a news conference unveiling of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Lauren Underwood, Nancy Pelosi
Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., speaks during a news conference unveiling of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Immunization rates have dropped to dangerously low levels during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Rep. Lauren Underwood has teamed up with other lawmakers to reverse this decline. 

Underwood introduced legislation that would prepare for the eventual creation of COVID-19 vaccine and encourage the community to use it.  

“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,” said Underwood in a statement. 

The Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act would provide $560 million to state and local public health departments to promote recommended vaccinations during the COVID-19 public health emergency through the following:

  • 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
  • Evaluating efforts to improve the effectiveness of future initiatives to promote vaccinations

The act would also fund the development and spread of vaccine counseling guidance for community immunization providers, to make sure they can effectively inform the public about an eventual COVID vaccine. 

“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 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.”

Immunization advocates supported Underwood’s bill, saying it is important not to add another epidemic to the ongoing pandemic. 

“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,” Amy Pisani, Executive Director of Vaccinate Your Family said.