Community health centers across the country, many of which serve minority and low-income communities, will receive one million doses of vaccines from the White House, said Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, in a press briefing this afternoon.
The White House plans to give 250 federally qualified community health centers across all 50 states and territories enough doses to vaccinate 500,000 in the coming weeks.
Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of Joe Biden’s Covid health equity task force, said that the White House hopes to connect with hard-to-reach populations, including those experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers and people living in public housing, by having community centers distribute the vaccine.
Community health centers across the US serve 30 million people, two-third of who are at or below the federal poverty line and identify with racial ethnic minorities. Centers will be able to start to order vaccines as soon as next week, Nunez-Smith said.
Zients also said that vaccine distribution is up 5% compared to last week and is up 28% since Biden came into office, with states receiving 11m doses each week.
The election arm of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has brought out its final report on the US presidential election, concluding that it was well organised under the circumstances and there was no significant fraud.
The report also found that Donald Trump’s rhetoric and refusal to accept defeat undermined public faith in democratic institutions, and warned the US has long-term problems with providing equal voting rights for all.
As is routine for OSCE member states, its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) sent a team out to observe the run-up, election day itself and the aftermath. Its report notes that voting infrastructure in the US is chronically underfunded, and the extra $400m disbursed to deal with the challenge of voting in a pandemic was insufficient.
A total of 101 million Americans, 64% of all 2020 voters, cast an early ballot, but despite that unprecedented number, the report found that “early voting was generally well organised and implemented professionally”.
“The number and scale of substantiated cases of fraud associated to absentee ballots were negligible,” it said.
One of the main problems with the election and its aftermath, according to the findings, was the incumbent president.
“On many occasions, President Trump created an impression of refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, claiming that the electoral process was systematically rigged,” the report said.
“Such statements by an incumbent president weaken public confidence in state institutions and were perceived by many as increasing the potential for politically motivated violence after the elections.”
The ODIHR report did not take an explicit view on Trump’s role in inciting the Capitol riot, on 6 January and for which he was impeached a second time. But it noted that at his rally immediately beforehand, Trump “persisted in his accusations that the election had been stolen, urging his supporters to pressure representatives to overturn the counting of electoral college votes.”
The ODIHR was most scathing about the state of voting rights in the US. It notes that after the supreme court invalidated key parts of the Voting Rights Act, “some states enacted laws which effectively compromised voting rights for some disadvantaged groups”.
An estimated 5.2 million citizens are effectively disenfranchised due to a criminal conviction, even though half have served their sentences.
The report concluded: “These restrictions on the voting rights of ex-felons and felons contravene principles of universal suffrage and the principle of proportionality in the restriction of rights, as provided for by OSCE commitments and other international standards.”
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