President Trump and presidential candidate Joe Biden should establish and implement a nationwide plan for the distribution of approved coronavirus vaccines, the Associated General Contractors of America advised in a letter to the two presidential candidates (Trump and Biden).
“A thoughtful and comprehensive plan to rollout the ultimately approved vaccine for the coronavirus will ensure that the construction industry can continue to provide support for other critical sectors of the economy,” wrote Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive office, in the letters to the two candidates. “There is the real potential that conflicting and confusing priorities at the state and local level will undermine the distribution process.”
Establishing such a nationwide plan will help avoid the confusion, delays and potential economic hardships that would result from delegating all responsibility to state and local officials.
Sandherr noted that one of the clear lessons to come out of the early response to the pandemic was that the distribution of essential medical supplies should not be completely delegated to the states. He noted that many of the association’s member firms struggled to locate essential personal protective equipment as states competed against each other to stockpile items like masks, hand sanitizers and gloves.
He cautioned that delegating all responsibility for the distribution of vaccines to the states would create similar problems. Instead, he urged federal officials to establish and implement a single federal plan for nationwide distribution of vaccines, just as it established and implemented a federal plan for their development. Such a nationwide plan would limit the risk of voluminous and conflicting guidelines at the state and local levels, Sandherr added.
The federal plan should also prioritize the rational distribution of vaccines, based on risk and need, to ensure that vaccinations are distributed to the same groups, in the same order, throughout the country. He suggested that the plan should begin with vulnerable populations, followed by essential workers who are at the greatest risk of infection, including first responders and health care workers. Construction workers should merit priority over other essential workers who have the option of working remotely, he added.
Sandherr also said a nationwide plan will mitigate the risk of public officials demanding that essential services like construction shut down until the vaccines are widely distributed. He noted that such shutdowns would inflict additional, needless, hardships on workers and their families. And the shutdowns would be in complete disregard of the widespread safety protocols that have been put in place to allow essential economic activities, like construction, to continue safely during the pandemic.
“The federal government and the private sector have gone to great lengths to facilitate the development of multiple vaccine candidates that will, hopefully, soon be approved and made available,” Sandherr noted. “The tremendous potential for this hard work and innovation to turn the country around will not, however, be realized if the subsequent distribution of vaccines is wholly delegated to state and local governments.”