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Reps. DeLauro, Doggett, Schrier Join Experts Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and Nell Minow in Calling for the Public Release of the Administration’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan

August 21, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC — Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), and Kim Schrier, M.D., (WA-08) joined Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, and Nell Minow, Vice Chair, ValueEdge Advisors, on a press conference call to highlight the administration’s continued fumbling of the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. Emanuel and Minow highlighted the immediate need for a federal, public plan for COVID-19 vaccine production, procurement, pricing, and distribution.

More than 170,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, but the administration has yet to make public its plan for vaccine manufacturing and development. On August 7, 2020, DeLauro led 13 House Members in sending a letter to Vice President Pence, Chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, regarding the details of the Administration’s plan to ensure all Americans have access to a vaccine that is safe and effective.

“We called on the administration to make public their plans to ensure all Americans have access to a vaccine that is safe and effective,” said DeLauro. “We have still not received an answer, and to be frank, the Vice President’s office has failed to even acknowledge our letter. The administration has abdicated its leadership and failed to contain this virus. Americans are still dying—our communities cannot afford the added loss of life that would be caused by a disorganized process of manufacturing and distributing the coronavirus vaccine. Congress has appropriated this funding, the administration must make public their plans to use this funding to the hardest-hit communities.”

“There are many steps from proving a COIVD vaccine is effective and getting hundreds of millions of Americans vaccinated,” said Emanuel. “These steps range from producing vaccine to 'fill finish' in glass vials to injections with syringes and needles to having sufficient numbers of vaccinators.  And each step can become a serious bottleneck. The current Administration does not appear to have systematically addressed each potential bottleneck.  And given the Administration’s poor performance in many aspects of COVID-19— from testing to ensuring sufficient supply of PPE-- there is no assurance it has the capacity to anticipate and solve each potential bottleneck.  This threatens to delay vaccinations for tens if not hundreds of millions of Americans for months—and thus returning to normalcy. We need more accountability on how the Administration is ensuring each of these steps will not prevent effective COVID vaccination.”

“Urgent problems may justify some shortcuts, but it is essential to make sure that they are made legitimate through immediate and comprehensive transparency to ensure that all public-private partnerships are in the public interest and do not permit profiteering or unjustified payments to insiders,” said Minow.

 “Vaccines may eventually immunize us from viruses but we haven’t found one to immunize us from Trump’s failures. With no true national immunization plan in place, Trump offers only confusion similar to the mess he made of rationing remdesivir. No plan for who accesses the first vaccine doses, no plan for distribution, no plan to assure a vaccine more effective than a coin toss.  Meanwhile, taxpayers are assuming the risk in developing vaccines,” said Doggett. “And they deserve the full benefits of their multi-billion dollar investments—not just the obligation to pay and pay again. The Administration is hiding its agreements with manufacturers, which privatize only the profits. If Trump is so proud of the art of this deal, open these agreements up to a little sunlight so we can see all of the documents on the funding and procurement for these taxpayer-funded drugs.”

“It is so important that the rollout of a potential COVID-19 vaccine is done well,” said Schrier. "This is partly about infrastructure, manufacturing, and supply chains. But it is also about making sure we communicate clearly and transparently to the American public about rigorous testing, efficacy, and safety. There is already emerging skepticism and hesitancy, and we need to make sure people have the information they need to make an informed decision. If we get this wrong, and don't earn public trust and confidence, we will fail. A future COVID vaccine will only be effective in keeping our communities safe if people step up to take it. Even before we have details, it is important to start messaging now about our commitment to scientific rigor in studying safety and efficacy, and provide the utmost transparency.”

“Despite the loss of 172,000 people from COVID-19 in our country, Trump still does not understand the seriousness of this health crisis,” said Lee. “While he shirks his responsibilities, people of color continue to disproportionately suffer from this virus as a result of systemic racism and exclusion within our health care system. I am deeply concerned about this administration’s lack of transparency on the safety, accessibility, and development of a COVID-19 vaccine, and I am especially concerned about making this vaccine accessible to communities of color once it becomes available. I will continue to work with Rep. DeLauro and other colleagues in the House to hold this administration to task for an equitable vaccine to fight this public health crisis.”

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, I have been asking Trump Administration officials and pharmaceutical executives what their plan was going to be to make and distribute these vaccines. 174,000+ deaths later, we have seen federal taxpayers fund the research, and then, the manufacturers turn around and set a price per head that gives them a nice profit,” said Schakowsky. We need a plan now that puts saving lives first and making profits off of this pandemic last.”

In the coronavirus relief bills, Congress appropriated nearly $30 billion to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, including for research and development of therapeutics and vaccines, drug manufacturing, and purchasing. Additionally, the 2021 funding bill DeLauro led her colleagues in passing on the House floor provided $4 billion in the emergency title for an enhanced influenza vaccination campaign for this year’s flu season—to reduce the double wave of the flu and COVID-19—as well as to prepare for a COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

“The clock is ticking, and people need and deserve to know the administration’s plan for when they can expect a safe and affordable vaccine for themselves and their loved ones,” said DeLauro. “We need answers now.”