Sen. Warren Urges Biden Administration To Use Defense Production Act, Public Manufacturing To Expand Global Vaccine Access

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In full transparency, the following is a media release from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. She was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. She is a Democrat. (stock photo)

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WASHINGTON DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) sent a letter to Dr. David Kessler, the Chief Scientific Officer for the COVID-19 Response, and Mr. Jeffrey Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, raising concerns about the need to accelerate global vaccine manufacturing and expand access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world. In the letter, the lawmakers urge the Biden Administration to substantially increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines by invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to facilitate mRNA vaccine technology transfer and by immediately standing up publicly-owned vaccine manufacturing facilities.

The bicameral letter is signed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Representatives Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.).

“As the Omicron variant continues to disrupt lives and devastate communities across America and the globe, the federal government must use all tools at its disposal to save lives and hasten the end of the pandemic. Vaccine technology transfer and government-owned, contractor-operated vaccine manufacturing facilities are two critical tools in the fight against COVID-19, and we urge the Administration to invoke its authorities—including under the Defense Production Act—to expeditiously implement them,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The world is currently in a race to beat deadly coronavirus variants, including the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, that may continue to mutate and prolong the pandemic unless more people around the world are vaccinated. Despite crucial steps that the Biden Administration has taken to ensure greater vaccine production, low-income countries have received less than 2% of vaccines from Western vaccine makers.

Even without boosters, reaching President Biden’s goal of a 70% global vaccination rate by September 2022 would require 11 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, many more than the United States and other wealthy countries have committed to donate in that time.

And as of January 2022, the United States had only delivered 336.4 million of its promised 1.1 billion doses. Dramatically expanding global COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing is critical to meeting President Biden’s goal for global vaccinations and to ending the global pandemic. 

In the letter, Senator Warren, Rep. Schakowsky, and their colleagues call on the Biden Administration to take the following actions. First, the Administration should invoke the Defense Production Act to mandate the transfer of mRNA vaccine technology given Pfizer and Moderna’s refusal to act independently despite their reliance on years of publicly funded research, their use of billions of dollars in public funding through R&D and purchase contracts, and repeated requests by global health leaders and the Administration. Second, the Administration should immediately prioritize contracts for public, government-owned, and contractor-operated manufacturing models to drastically expand domestic COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, to ensure proper oversight and control over massive investments in the pandemic response, and to make vaccines available to low- and middle-income countries at reasonable prices.

editor

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