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Senator Hassan Questions Public Health Experts on Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic, Including Expanding Vaccine Availability

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan questioned top public health experts today about the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how to better get vaccines to hard-to-reach populations, during a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing.


To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.


During the hearing, Senator Hassan discussed the challenges that are preventing home health workers and their patients from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. “Home health workers face unique challenges accessing paid sick leave and personal protective equipment, and many individuals who receive home-based care are struggling to access vaccines,” Senator Hassan said.


The Senator asked Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, about how to improve vaccine availability for workers and patients across all types of long-term care settings, including those unable to travel to centralized vaccination sites.


Dr. Jha explained that many home health workers are unable to take time off if they develop side effects as a result of the vaccine. To address this challenge, Dr. Jha urged home health organizations to provide paid time off for workers so that they can receive their vaccine without fear of missing a day of work – and a day’s pay -- if they develop symptoms, which will help protect them and those that they care for from becoming seriously ill due to the virus.  


“I think that’s a really important area that has not gotten enough attention and we’ve been quick to dismiss these individuals who work incredibly hard, often multiple jobs, and get paid so very little,” Dr. Jha said.


Dr. Jha also underscored the need to stand up mobile vans or community based organizations that could provide vaccines to individuals who may otherwise struggle to get to a centralized vaccine site.  


Senator Hassan worked with her colleagues to secure more than $12.6 billion in dedicated emergency funding for State Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services in the American Rescue Plan that passed the Senate, which would provide critically-needed funding to help older Americans and individuals with disabilities receive the care that they need at home. Senator Hassan also recently led colleagues in calling on the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process is accessible for individuals with disabilities.