Durbin Questions CDC Director On Community Violence Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, today participated in a Subcommittee hearing on President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22)  Budget Request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During the hearing, Durbin questioned the witnesses—Director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat—on public health concerns, including COVID-19, preparation for future pandemics, and implementing a CDC proposal to address community-based violence, which mirrors Durbin’s Chicago HEAL Initiative.

“Dr. Walensky, I’m worried about gun violence.  I believe it is a public health issue because I represent the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago. We have the equivalent of a mass shooting every weekend in Chicago. It is a disaster in terms of its impact on the lives of many people and the life of the city. You have a proposal to make a $100 million investment through the CDC in community-based violence intervention, working with neighborhood organizations and hospitals to deliver services,” said Durbin. “I recommend to you a program which we started in Chicago called the HEAL Initiative… but I’d like for you to say a few words on what you anticipate that $100 million is going to be used for.”

Dr. Walensky responded by describing the program’s mission of collecting data on community violence to create actionable interventions to prevent occurrences like domestic violence, suicides, and gun violence while improving public health. The CDC’s proposal for the FY22 Budget calls for $100 million to fund this “Community Violence Intervention” program.

Durbin also discussed lessons learned from the shortcomings and successes of the pandemic response, including applauding the CDC under the Biden Administration for its effective vaccine rollout and its readiness to prepare for future public health crises and pandemics.

“Where did we shine in this effort? Certainly, vaccines. The quick response, as I learned during a visit to NIH [National Institutes of Health] was because we were prepared, and we had the science ready. We had good fortune in identifying the culprit and devising an effective strategy to go after it with vaccines,” said Durbin.

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s question in Committee is available here for TV stations.