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CDC plans national Covid vaccination forum to reassert federal leadership

The agency's first such event during the pandemic is set to take place later this month.
Image: COVID-19 vaccination event at Auto Club Speedway
Jacquelyn Zaval prepares a shot of the Moderna vaccine at a Covid-19 vaccination event at Auto Club Speedwayin Fontana, Calif., on Feb. 2.Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the first time during the pandemic, will host a nationwide forum on the safest and most effective ways to vaccinate millions of Americans, a Biden official said as the new administration seeks to re-empower scientific agencies sidelined under the previous administration.

The Feb. 22-24 event with national, state, local and tribal medical practitioners is part of a series of initiatives the new administration is taking to signal that the federal government is playing a more aggressive leadership role in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

The goal is to communicate national standards for how best to build trust and confidence in vaccines and to ensure "equitable vaccine access and uptake to all populations," the official said.

The event, which will include a series of town hall and other sessions, will be led by the CDC's new director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, as well as White House Covid-19 advisers and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials. It will also include the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association.

The forum will take place heading into a mass vaccination crunch period — with clinics going up and practitioners being recruited across the country to vaccinate millions of people in a matter of months. The best practices that officials will communicate include how to have safe "vaccine implementation, with equity and increasing public confidence."

It's the most recent example of the administration's trying to assert itself in coordinating the Covid-19 response and re-empowering scientific agencies.

Last week, Biden officials announced the first major use of the Defense Production Act, helping Pfizer meet its promise to accelerate vaccine production. Before that, the administration said it would boost deliveries and give states more notice of their allotments.

Morale at the CDC had taken a significant hit during the Trump administration, NBC News reported last year, during months of mixed messages, political pressure and public gaffes about Covid-19.

House Democrats are also investigating allegations of political interference at the agency, including interference with scientific reports disseminated to the public. A few weeks ago, a group of former CDC directors outlined the "damage" the agency had sustained, citing "politicization" and "marginalization" of the agency, which had had the public's trust for decades because it is considered the "gold standard for public health."