June 08, 2021

Warren, Merkley, Krishnamoorthi, and Jayapal Introduce The NOVID Act To Provide International Aid and Protect The U.S. From Risk Of New Coronavirus Strains

The bill would dramatically expand U.S. aid to end COVID-19 outbreaks and prevent new strains through vaccinating 60% of the population of the most vulnerable countries

Bill Text (PDF)  

Washington, DC – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), along with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), introduced the Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate (NOVID) Act to dramatically expand the nation’s international coronavirus prevention and vaccination efforts. The NOVID Act would protect the United States from additional domestic outbreaks by reducing the risk of more dangerous, new COVID-19 strains developing internationally. Even as global COVID-19 infection and fatality rates decline, more than 300,000 new people test positive each day. In a recent survey by Oxfam, 88% of epidemiologists believed that persistent low vaccine coverage in many countries would make it more likely for vaccine-resistant mutations to emerge, and 66% said that within a year the virus could mutate to the extent that the majority of first-generation vaccines would become ineffective.

The NOVID Act would help save lives in nations still hardest-hit by mobilizing the federal government to work toward inoculating at least 60% of populations in the 92 low-and-middle-income countries participating in COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX). Doing so would reduce the potential emergence of dangerous new strains. The NOVID Act would establish the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Program (PanPReP) to immediately coordinate U.S. efforts and investments in increasing the production, procurement, and end-to-end distribution of vaccines in COVAX nations. PanPReP would be modeled after the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has helped save 20 million lives since 2003.

“COVID-19 is a humanitarian crisis that impacts all of us, and we need all hands on deck to bring an end to this pandemic,” said Senator Warren. “That’s why my colleagues and I are introducing this critical legislation in the Senate to expand global access to lifesaving vaccines and establish essential global health security programs to protect us against future pandemics.”

“Despite the progress we’ve made here at home, the coronavirus continues to devastate other parts of the world, and these outbreaks represent a threat to Americans with an increased risk of double and triple mutation variants which the vaccines we have today may not be able to stop,” said Congressman Krishnamoorthi. “That’s why I’m proud to join with my colleagues in introducing this legislation to protect our country from new variants by helping our partners abroad vaccinate their populations, end their outbreaks, and prevent new variants from emerging within their borders or reaching ours. So long as COVID-19 continues to thrive anywhere, it’s a threat to everyone everywhere, and that means we need the global response the NOVID Act would provide.”

“The coronavirus crisis is a global emergency that can’t be tackled in one country alone. That’s why it’s critically important that we remember that while life is feeling more and more normal in America, this pandemic is still causing unfathomable destruction in communities around the world,” said Senator Merkley. “Helping the world drastically increase vaccine manufacturing and access is not only the right thing to do, but it will help keep Americans safer, by decreasing the risk of dangerous, vaccine-resistant variants emerging and coming to our shores. This is a crucial opportunity for us to show American leadership is back, at a time when the world needs that leadership most."

"A global pandemic is not over until it is over everywhere," said Congresswoman Jayapal. "It is not only our moral responsibility to quickly and equitably unleash the resources necessary to defeat this deadly virus abroad, but doing so will also keep us safe at home while reducing the risk of dangerous new variants. At the heart of the NOVID Act is a powerful recognition that whether you live in America or around the world, your future is intertwined with mine — that we’re all better off when we’re all better off."

“While much remains to be done, in the United States, thanks to widespread availability of vaccines, we are beginning to emerge from more than a year of hardship and suffering,” said Peter Maybarduk, Director or Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program. “But in many countries in the global South – in South America, in Asia, in Africa – the virus spreads unabated, and access to vaccines is only a distant hope. The NOVID Act would dramatically accelerate global access to vaccines to bring a rapid end to the pandemic, saving millions of lives and trillions of dollars and restoring the standing of the United States around the world. Public Citizen applauds Reps. Krishnamoorthi and Jayapal, Sens. Merkley and Warren, and other cosponsors for their vision and leadership.”

Improving vaccination uptake globally is essential to ending the pandemic, and the United States has a responsibility to improve its global health efforts. The NOVID Act would establish PanPReP to create a comprehensive three-year COVID-19 global health strategy—coordinating between the Departments of State, Commerce, Defense, and Labor, and USAID, CDC, BARDA, HRSA, and the Peace Corps. PanPReP’s efforts would focus on:

  1. Working with manufacturers to rapidly scale up the production of vaccines and vaccine components internationally, making at least 8 billion vaccine doses.
  2. Purchasing vaccines for 92 COVAX countries in concert with our international partners, immunizing at least 60% of their populations.
  3. Supporting end-to-end delivery and administration of vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.

 The bill authorizes $25 billion for scaling manufacturing capacity and $8.5 billion for supporting end-to-end delivery of vaccines. After the COVID-19 pandemic, PanPReP will shift to protect against future pandemics by coordinating a global disease surveillance network. The bill authorizes $500 million to establish the network. 

Organizations endorsing the legislation include: Public Citizen, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief USA, Partners In Health, PrEP4All, HelpAge USA, Physicians for Human Rights, Doctors for America, Advocacy Network for Africa, American Friends Service Committee, The Access Challenge, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.,Chicago Medical Society, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society, US Impact, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the American Medical Women's Association, and American Jewish World Service. 

This bill is part of Senator Warren’s ongoing efforts to support the global vaccination effort: 

  • On April 28, 2021, Senators Warren, Merkley, Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent letters to Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson requesting information on their plans to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine manufacturing capacity across the globe.

  • On April 30, 2021, Senator Warren sent a letter to President Biden urging his administration to leverage all tools and resources available to the United States to provide relief to India, which is "in the midst of an urgent humanitarian crisis that requires a robust response from its partners and allies abroad," as the Senator wrote in her letter to the President.

  • On April 16, 2021, Senator Warren and her Senate colleagues sent a letter to President Biden urging him to publicly support a temporary patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines that would allow countries to manufacture treatments locally, expediting the global vaccination effort, saving countless lives and crushing the pandemic.