March 17, 2021 -- The Biden administration announced today that billions of dollars in federal money will be used help communities hardest hit by the pandemic, including $2.25 billion in grants for public health departments to promote health equity.

“This funding represents the CDC’s largest investment to date to support communities that are affected by COVID-19-related health disparities, especially those in high-risk and underserved groups,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, said during a news briefing Wednesday. “This is a truly historic investment for the CDC and an important step forward to help hard-hit communities turn the corner on this pandemic.”

The funding, which will be distributed as grants averaging $20 million, will improve testing and contact tracing, along with prevention strategies, Walensky said.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services signed a $150 million agreement today to help vulnerable areas get better access to monoclonal antibody therapy -- lab-made proteins that mimic an immune response and have been shown to prevent severe illness in COVID-19 patients. This may include more staff and equipment needed to administer the antibodies via IV, said Marcela Nunez-Smith, MD, the White House COVID-19 equity task force chair.

Nunez-Smith said the treatments are now available in 5,000 places across the country, with more locations to come in the coming weeks in areas with the greatest need.

“This will help us make sure that any individual in any community can have access to these important therapeutics,” Nunez-Smith said. “This gives us the ability to continue to meet people where they are.”

The administration is also working to open schools as soon and as safely as possible. A total of $10 billion from the recently passed stimulus package will go toward COVID-19 testing in schools. The money, which will be distributed according to population size, will be awarded to states in April.

Along with the funding announcements, Biden made good on his promise to direct states, tribes, and territories to make all adults eligible for the vaccine in a formal order today.

There is also good news on the research front, according to COVID-19 czar Anthony Fauci, MD. Recent data from abroad and within the United States show the real-life success rates of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines mirror those found in clinical trials. Israeli researchers looked at positive tests in 600,000 vaccinated people and the same number of unvaccinated people, finding 94% fewer infections among those who were vaccinated.

According to a recent Mayo Clinic study, there was an 80% lower risk of testing positive for COVID-19 after the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.