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Senator Hassan Questions Dr. Fauci & Administration Officials on Access to Vaccines for Individuals with Disabilities & Vaccine Booster Shots

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) questioned administration officials on COVID-19 vaccine access during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing today.


To watch Senator Hasan’s questioning, click here.


Vaccine Access for Individuals with Disabilities


Senator Hassan first asked Dr. David Kessler, Chief Science Officer, COVID Response at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about what the administration is doing to work with states and improve access to COVID-19 vaccines for individuals with disabilities.


Earlier this month, Senator Hassan led a letter to HHS and the Department of Justice about this issue. “This letter followed reports from constituents in my home state of New Hampshire that they could not access the vaccine registration website using a screen reader, which is a crucial tool for people with vision loss,” said Senator Hassan to Dr. Kessler. “Ensuring that individuals with disabilities and other vulnerable communities can easily register for appointments and access vaccination sites is essential for an equitable distribution of the vaccine.”


Dr. Kessler stated, “Senator, absolutely key points and no doubt we can do better on that.” He discussed the need to improve the process for signing up for vaccines. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH also discussed work that the agency is doing now with local partners on equitable access to vaccination sites.


“Whether it’s a telephone system that somebody who has a hearing impairment can use, or a screen that somebody with a visual impairment can use, or a vaccination site where somebody who might have difficulty being exposed to bright lights, or a lot of noise for long periods of time has space to be, these are all requirements under the law for access,” Senator Hassan added.


Booster Shots for Long-Term Protection


Senator Hassan also questioned Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Kessler on next steps for long-term protection from COVID-19.


“As vaccinations continue to ramp up across the country, you’ve both mentioned the possibility that we will need to develop booster shots to ensure long-term protection from COVID-19, and respond to existing and future variants of the virus,” said Senator Hassan. “Are there additional steps we should be taking now in order to ensure that Americans will have timely access to any necessary COVID-19 boosters, and make sure that they will understand the importance of taking them, including when the current public health emergency declaration ends?”


Dr. Kessler and Dr. Fauci discussed the data that they are analyzing and variations across populations in terms of responsiveness to the vaccine. “What we need to find out is what’s the minimum cutoff, where’s the point where absolutely you’ve got to start giving boosters,” said Dr. Fauci.