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The White House should order production of 1 billion vaccine doses

by BEN SMILOWITZ, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR | Story Source    Wednesday December 16, 2020 - 10:58 PM
POLITICS
* Vaccines *
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The White House should order production of 1 billion vaccine doses
Now that a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the White House should immediately leverage the Defense Production Act to ramp up production to save as many lives as possible and allow our economy to recover. Any delay in expanding productive capacity will unnecessarily extend this deadly pandemic and cause further harm to our economy.

The same White House that invoked the Defense Production Act as many as 300,000 times in the last year alone, mostly to prioritize defense contracts unrelated to COVID-19, surely knows how to use the law to secure vaccine doses for everyone in our country.

When it comes to using the Defense Production Act, the White House has a big "magic wand" and could use the law to produce a billion doses.

Instead of focusing on only the prioritization of available vaccine supply, the White House should focus on expanding productive capacity utilizing Title 3 of the Defense Production Act.

The big question is, will they?

In addition to securing vaccine doses for our nation, we should use the Defense Production Act to satisfy global vaccine demand. No doubt we would save hundreds of thousands of lives and advance our global humanitarian efforts. Even the "America First" crowd should see value in this proposal.

First: Americans aren't safe until the virus is under control, globally. We've seen how quickly the virus can travel across the globe and the economy will not fully recover until travel, trade, and business is able to safely resume.

Second: The U.S. can recover costs by selling hundreds of millions of surplus vaccine doses to other countries.

Third: Increased production here in the U.S. will benefit the U.S. economy and increase jobs. Do we want the world to buy the Chinese vaccine or the American? Let us produce and sell. Time is of the essence.

The past week's news of the U.S. government purchasing only 100 million vaccine doses from Pfizer and having to wait in line behind other countries before securing additional doses suggests that Pfizer has production limitations. We know there is tremendous global demand and this is an opportunity for U.S. industry to produce more and sell.

Meanwhile, although the White House announced that, through executive order, Americans will receive vaccinations first, experts estimate that widespread vaccine availability may not be realized until summer, or later.

Title 3 allows the federal government to procure and/or install equipment needed for increasing productive capacity. For example, if Pfizer does not have the space or equipment needed to increase production, the federal government can assist using these Title 3 authorities and increase production 10 or 20-fold.

More widespread utilization of Defense Production Act could have increased our nation's production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies, and helped us avoid the deadly shortages experienced by health and front-line workers and in nursing homes. So much death could have been avoided.

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