WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Xavier Becerra, President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about getting vaccines where they are needed most, as well as addressing Nevada’s medical provider shortage. A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: Vaccines, it’s on everybody’s minds right. The pandemic, of course, has hit Nevada particularly hard, especially with so much of our economy relying on the travel and tourism industry. The best way to revive Nevada’s economy, save lives is to increase the number of vaccines. We have to continue to build on the good work that President Biden has already done and work together to make sure that no one is left behind, and that the response is equitable.
So, Mr. Becerra, we’ve seen more vaccines coming into our states over the last few weeks, but it is really critical that the allocation formula is updated with the most recent population data so rapidly growing states like Nevada get their fair share. Will you commit to being sure that all the data is as up-to-date as possible, as we continue to distribute vaccines across the country?
BECERRA: Senator, thank you for the question. By the way and for the work you and others have done in the state of Nevada. Which is probably one of the hardest-hit states. Absolutely, I commit. We will work with you to make sure the data is accurate. We want to make sure as I’ve said before that we are sending the product, vaccines, all that is needed, where is it needed most. Definitely, look forward to work with you to make sure Nevada gets its fair share.
ROSEN: Another issue of course we always have this problem in Nevada and many places across the country. The pandemic has really shined a spotlight on our provider shortage issue. Every county, every county in Nevada has a shortage of health care providers. The pandemic has accelerated the urgency for us to address these issues and all the challenges its surrounded. Our state ranks last in per capita number of general surgeons, 48th for primary care, and 45th for physicians overall. Some Nevadans in rural areas have to travel over 300 miles to find a specialist to provide the care they need. We are working hard to increase the number of our doctors. The University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Medicine is graduating their inaugural class this year. So that’s great for our state, but we have to do more. We have to increase our graduate medical education slots. These are critical to addressing our provider shortages. These slots included in the last recovery package were a great start, but we need to do more. Will you commit to working with us to ensure Nevada institutions and other states with similar issues as ours receive their fair share of the new graduate medical education slots? What else do you think you can do to help us increase our provider shortages across the medical spectrum doctors, nurses and the like?
BECERRA: Senator, thank you for the question. First I have to say thank you to you and your colleagues for including the one thousand slots for the GME slots for graduate medical education so that we can actually see those future doctors in places like Nevada and throughout the country. Thank you for that. As you know, President Biden has made the commitment. He wants to put a hundred thousand new public health workers out there to help states like Nevada to make sure you are reaching all your communities and protecting them with vaccines and all the different types of things we have to do to protect them from COVID. We just have to be there generally speaking for the long term. My wife has mentioned to me how it looks like there is an increasing number of Americans who are applying to medical school. Maybe it is because they have seen the effort performed by so many medical professionals. They see that us truly worthy profession to be in. Whatever it is we should take it and we should reward those who go into the health profession. So I look forward to working with you and your colleagues to make sure that becomes a reality so we can service the needs of all our people.
ROSEN: Thank you very much. Just in the quick time I have left, I just want to know what you think we should do in communities of color. In some of our minority communities, COVID has hit them the very hardest. How do we ensure that there are greater protections for them? What are you planning to do in that regard?
BECERRA: Senator, thank you for the question. I look forward to working with you on this. Let’s use data to drive decisions so that they are done transparently. Let’s make sure that we make every effort to reach everyone. Some communities, whether rural or inner-city urban, will need mobile clinics so that we can make sure that they get the COVID vaccination. We can do things, but we have to work with those communities, use their civic and religious leaders that they respect to help us reach populations that too often have gone absent.
ROSEN: Thank you so much. I think my time has expired. I look forward to working with you in this administration.