White House announces plans to use Defense Production Act

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The White House is flexing its Defense Production Act muscle by using it to ramp up vaccine production, deliver more at-home COVID-19 tests and create more personal protective equipment, officials announced Friday.

Tim Manning, the national supply chain coordinator for the COVID-19 response under President Biden, said the DPA will be used to get Pfizer more equipment and supplies so they can get vaccines out quicker.

“Right now one of the factors constraining increased manufacturing of vaccines is limited equipment and ingredients,” Manning explained during the White House COVID Task Force briefing.

He said the federal government will expand the priority ratings on Pfizer’s supply contracts so they can get the materials before anyone else and allow them to make more of the inoculations.

“We’re expanding the priority ratings for Pfizer … to manufacture the COVID vaccine,” Manning, who used to work for FEMA, said. 

“It’s actions like these that will allow Pfizer to ramp up production and hit their targets of delivering hundreds of millions of doses over the coming months.”

Manning said the federal government is also using the DPA to increase the supply of at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests by bringing on six new suppliers who’ll be able to deliver 61 million tests by the end of the summer.

“The country is well behind where we need to be on testing, particularly the rapid, at-home tests that will allow us all to get back to normal activities like work and school,” Manning said.

Earlier this week, the task force announced a plan to bring the first, non-prescription, at-home COVID test to Americans through the Australian company Ellume and an additional six suppliers are in contract negotiations now, which will wrap in a couple of weeks, Manning said.

To reach the 61 million goal, the DPA will be used to help the companies construct new plants and build new production lines on US soil, which will reduce “our vulnerabilities to disruptions in the supply chain,” Manning said.

Finally, Manning announced plans to produce more surgical gloves by building plants to produce the raw materials needed for the equipment and then factories to produce them.

“We’re already working to increase the availability of N95 masks to frontline workers but another critical area of concern we hear over and over is surgical gloves. Right now we just don’t have enough gloves, we’re nearly 100% reliant on overseas manufacturers to export to us our country’s surgical gloves that protect healthcare workers and that’s unacceptable,” Manning said.

“By the end of the year we’ll produce more than a billion nitrile gloves a month right here in America. We’ll now make enough to satisfy half of all the US American healthcare community demands right here on US shores.”

Manning said there are additional plans to use the DPA for programs that’ll allow scientists to track COVID-19 variants and see new ones but more funding is needed to get the projects underway.

“Congress could help this effort greatly by passing the American Rescue Plan,” Manning said, referring to the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that was passed by the Senate Friday.

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