Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent a letter to White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx urging the Trump Administration to develop a national COVID-19 vaccine plan. The Committee leaders wrote that the comprehensive plan should outline plans for development, manufacturing, distribution, provider training, public education and broad vaccine access.
“We write regarding the Trump Administration’s planning efforts related to a future vaccine for [COVID-19],” the bipartisan Committee leaders wrote. “Public health experts warn that a vaccination campaign will ‘require massive preparation and precise coordination.’ As vaccine research and development progresses, we urge the Administration to develop and publicize to the greatest extent possible a national COVID-19 vaccine plan.”
According to public health experts, a key component of a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine plan is ensuring the ability to bring manufacturing of the COVID-19 vaccine and ancillary supplies to scale once a vaccine is approved. In congressional testimony last year, Dr. Robert Kadlec, the Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, warned that the “U.S. lacks sufficient domestic manufacturing capacity and/or raw materials,” for medical countermeasures including vaccines. He went on to say, “in a pandemic, global manufacturing capacity will likely not be sufficient to meet demand, resulting in an inability to import adequate quantities of medial countermeasures.”
“In addition to development, manufacturing, and distribution, a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine plan must also take into account the decisions that will be necessary related to the allocation of a vaccine,” the Committee leaders continued in their letter to Dr. Birx. “Strategies for provider engagement and public education efforts will be similarly crucial to the success of a COVID-19 vaccine plan. Given that overall vaccination rates among adults are particularly low in the United States, and that marginalized communities are less likely to have access to vaccines, these efforts cannot begin soon enough.”
The Committee leaders stressed that the comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine plan will need to address potential barriers related to patient vaccination costs and ensure there is broad access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act took the first steps to address this issue by expediting coverage of a future COVID-19 vaccine in most private health plans and ensuring coverage under Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage without any cost-sharing.
In order to better understand how the Administration is preparing to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine plan, the bipartisan Committee leaders requested a briefing on the recently announced “Operation Warp Speed” and answers to a series of questions by June 4, 2020.
To read the full letter, click HERE.