The president could use the Defense Production Act much more aggressively to fight the development of new Covid-19 variants.
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President Joe Biden made the Defense Production Act a key part of his campaign coronavirus platform. He began calling for the act to be invoked to boost mask production in March 2020. On his first full day in office, he spoke of a “full-scale wartime effort to address the supply shortages by ramping up production of protective equipment, syringes, needles, you name it.” His executive order that afternoon directed all federal agencies and private industry to use the DPA to accelerate the production of “everything needed to protect, test, vaccinate, and take care of our people.” The White House has called the order one of several “historic actions” already taken by the Biden administration.
But so far, U.S. agencies have not used the DPA to produce vaccines. Since May 2020, officials have used it to a limited extent—18 times in all—to help outfit production lines with special tools, to invest in glass vials and syringes, and to procure some vaccine ingredients like sucrose and lipids. Government specialists have also been dispatched to manufacturing facilities to help solve bottlenecks. But experts say the act, and other U.S. laws, could be much more broadly applied to tackle supply and manufacturing issues. In the meantime, the pandemic is growing worse.
The DPA, first created for military production purposes during the Korean War, has since been expanded to include public health crises and other emergencies, such as the federal response to the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico. It allows the United States to cut in line for necessary materials, requiring companies to prioritize filling the federal government’s contracts before any others. The Trump administration used the DPA hundreds of thousands of times to fund defense projects quickly, but Trump was loath to use it to address the coronavirus crisis. Trump said he only signed an order allowing the use of the act for the pandemic in March “should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future,” adding that “hopefully there will be no need.” Trump was wary of government involvement in the private health care industry, preferring to use the DPA as a negotiation tool instead of compelling companies to act in the government’s interest. But experts say that relying on the market to solve a global pandemic was a missed opportunity to stem the crisis before it worsened.
Given Biden’s early and frequent support of the act, it’s surprising that it has not yet been put into wider use, experts told me. “These are minor, moderate steps, but by no means the kind of scope that’s needed right now,” said Brook Baker, a professor focusing on intellectual property and access to medicine at Northeastern University School of Law. “With the new variants that we’re seeing, it’s even clearer that we need to have basically a major D-Day kind of effort to increase vaccine manufacturing globally, or we’re all going to be vulnerable to new variants, whether we’ve been vaccinated or not.” Widespread vaccination could slow the virus’s transmission and thus mutation, he said.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction
February 5, 2021 at 6:16 PM #401159MackMarksteinParticipant
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I didn’t vote for that CarPol Vichy Dem (career politician).
But many of these discussion threads start out with news stories noting how Biden’s actual actions on any of his given first-100-day initiatives, are much less than meets the eye. It certainly seems to be a theme. Efforts in the right direction, which are more like the appearance of efforts, limited efforts, as if he’ll be graded on the names of his efforts.
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