FEMA’s Role in COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

FEMA Advisory: February 8, 2021

In alignment with President Biden’s plan to respond to COVID-19, FEMA will work with other federal agencies to coordinate with state, tribal and territorial authorities and private sector partners and others to assist, augment and expedite vaccinations in the United States.

Key Messages

  • At the President’s direction, FEMA has increased its support to states, tribes and territories for vaccination centers. FEMA has already obligated more than $2.29 billion to states, tribes and territories, and Washington, D.C. for community vaccination centers. As the number of states with obligations increases, we will work alongside other federal agencies to provide federal support for critical staffing, supplies and other shortfalls that can help get more Americans vaccinated. 
  • FEMA published a Community Vaccination Centers Playbook that establishes guidance for providing federal support to state, tribal and territorial Community Vaccination Centers. Information includes interagency coordination, resource support, facility setup and other requirements.

Federal Funding to Accelerate Vaccine Efforts 

  • FEMA, in accordance with President Biden’s Jan. 21 Memorandum, will provide reimbursement to states, local, tribal and territorial governments and the District of Columbia for the use of their National Guard to respond to COVID-19 and other assistance, which may include support to vaccination distribution and administration, at a 100% cost share until Sept. 30.
  • On Feb. 2, President Biden directed FEMA to retroactively reimburse states for 100% of their costs for eligible emergency protective measures including masks, gloves, emergency feeding actions, sheltering at risk populations and mobilization of the National Guard, if not funded by HHS/CDC or another federal agency. 
  • President’s directive also directs FEMA to expand the activities eligible for reimbursement for work conducted after Jan. 21, 2021 and until Sept. 30, 2021. Reimbursement applies to eligible costs to support the safe opening and operation of eligible schools, child-care facilities, healthcare facilities, non-congregate shelters, domestic violence shelters, transit systems and other eligible applicants incurred after Jan. 21.  
  • FEMA is supporting vaccination centers by providing expedited financial assistance, federal equipment and supplies, and deploying federal personnel to states, tribes, territories and other eligible applicants for vaccination efforts. This assistance is processed when a request is submitted. 
  • As of Feb. 7, the Disaster Relief Fund balance is more than $12.2 billion. These funds will support continued response to COVID-19, including expanded vaccination efforts across the country by providing financial assistance to governments and other eligible applicants for vaccination efforts as well as personal protective equipment, alternative care sites and durable medical equipment. 
  • Providing funding to states, tribes and territories is an Administration priority. After a request is submitted, reviewed and validated, FEMA can expedite reimbursement for eligible emergency work projects to ensure resources are available to support vaccine distribution and administration.
  • As of Feb. 7, FEMA has provided more than $2.29 billion to 32 states, the District of Columbia, two tribes and three territories for expenses related to COVID-19 vaccination at 100% federal cost share. In the last 48 hours, the following obligation over $1 million was made:
    • $20.5 million for Arizona.
    • $823.4 million for California.
    • $8.3 million for Michigan. 
  • These funds cover critical supplies, staffing, training and transportation needs that can help protect and save lives.
  • The costs of purchasing the vaccine and support kits are not covered by these obligations and do not duplicate any HHS funding. COVID-19 Vaccines and support kits are provided to state, tribal and territorial governments at no cost by the federal government. 
  • The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 appropriates $2 billion to FEMA to provide financial assistance to households for COVID-19-related funeral expenses at a 100% federal cost. 
    • FEMA is finalizing an interim policy and will be hiring contract support through the federal acquisitions process to help administer the program. The contract is open for proposals until Feb.8. 

FEMA and Other Federal Agencies Are Supporting Vaccine Centers

  • FEMA, through its National Response Coordination Center and 10 regional offices across the nation, is coordinating with other federal agencies to meet state, tribal and territorial needs. FEMA is providing support to established community vaccination centers and National Guard operations to expand access to vaccines.
  • A vaccine center is considered federally supported based on three characteristics: 
    • It is a state, local, tribal or territorial established vaccine center that is receiving any combination of federal personnel, materiel or funding.
    • The federal support enables the center to open, remain open, or expand capacity.
    • The center is, or has been, operational on or after Jan 20. 
  • FEMA has finalized a contract for 30 mobile vaccination units; inspection and delivery begin week of Feb. 15.
  • As of Feb. 7, FEMA has deployed 673 incident management and 318 incident support staff across the nation to support vaccine centers with federal personnel and technical assistance. Additional FEMA staff across the country are supporting virtually. 
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is supporting FEMA’s COVID-19 federally supported Community Vaccination Centers response. 
    • This support includes subject matter expert support to existing FEMA/state assessment teams, providing site assessments for new sites and providing contracting capability to establish new sites.
    • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is coordinating with FEMA and the CDC to design walk-up, drive-through and mobile vaccination centers. Vaccine center size and location are decided by state, local, tribal and territorial governments. 
    • The intent of these designs is the use of existing infrastructure when available. 
  • The U.S. National Guard Bureau is providing 1,061 vaccinators, to 349 vaccines sites in 39 states and territories. 
  • Additionally, 276 interagency vaccinators have deployed to Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey and Texas. More than 300 vaccinators have been assigned to support community vaccine centers in the coming weeks, with an additional 400 vaccinators awaiting vaccine center assignments. 
  • The Secretary of Defense has approved 1,110 active duty troops to support five vaccine centers. FEMA will be partnering with the Department of Defense for additional resources at vaccination centers throughout the country.
  • On Feb 5, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas activated the DHS Surge Capacity Force for vaccine support operations. The force is composed of federal employees from other DHS components and augments FEMA’s incident management workforce. 
    • These members will receive either virtual or in-person orientation and training from FEMA before deploying to support vaccine centers.

Ensuring Equitable Vaccine Access

  • FEMA is committed to ensuring every American who wants a vaccine can get one. 
  • FEMA is working with state, local, tribal and territorial partners and the CDC to ensure America’s vulnerable and underserved populations receive vaccinations. We are doing that through our teams on the ground who are working with our partners on site selection and placement, as well as site management.
  • FEMA has civil rights advisors and disability integration specialists in each of FEMA’s 10 regions to help advise state, local, tribal and territorial governments and other partners. FEMA is deploying additional disability integration advisors and civil rights advisors to support regional leadership.   
  • Additionally, FEMA has established a Civil Rights Advisory Group to proactively consider and promptly resolve civil rights concerns and help ensure equity in the allocation of scarce resources including future vaccine allocation. 
    • Led by FEMA’s Office of Equal Rights, this group evaluates policies, practices, strategies and plans to ensure equity is at the forefront of all FEMA vaccination efforts across the country.
    • To support FEMA’s efforts during the COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts, FEMA is developing a checklist for use by all partners to ensure access to programs and activities and the impartial and fair provision of services. 
  • FEMA Regional Disability Integration Specialists and Disability Integration Advisors are deployed to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are integrated in all facets of vaccine center operation, including everything from site selection to vaccine distribution.
    • FEMA is analyzing community demographics, mobilizing translation and interpretation services, to include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, and considering the needs of people with disabilities who choose to be vaccinated. 
  • Everyone has a role to play in increasing vaccinations. Support your family, friends and neighbors if they need help getting appointments or getting to a vaccination center. 
    • You can help those without access to technology or those with low computer literacy to sign up online.

Community Vaccination Center Pilot Partnerships

  • The federal government is partnering with state governments to launch a small number of pilot community vaccination using primarily federal staff to support of state and local governments. 
  • Piloting these centers allows FEMA and its federal partners to ensure the success of a small number of centers before preparing additional support as vaccine supplies ramp up in the weeks and months ahead.
  • FEMA, and the state of California partnered to launch a pilot project to establish community vaccination centers in Los Angeles and Oakland. FEMA will provide resources, operational support and federal staffing support to establish these new centers. The centers are expected to be open to eligible members of the public beginning Feb. 16.

Vaccine Guidance

  • According to CDC, as of Feb. 7 more than 41.2 million vaccine doses have been administered. More than 59.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed to locations across the country. 
  • The CDC Vaccine Task Force and Data Analysis & Visualization Task Force launched the CDC COVID Data Tracker Vaccinations Trends page. This page includes the overall trends of vaccinations over time in the US and for the Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program.
  • FEMA is working with the Ad Council to encourage hesitant or underrepresented Americans to get vaccinated. This research-driven public education campaign provides federal, non-profit, and medical stakeholders with insights and communications strategies to tailor communications to reach diverse audiences. 
  • The vaccine is not a perfect fix. Everyone should continue to practice other precautions like wearing a mask, social distancing, handwashing and other hygiene measures until public health officials say otherwise.

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