January 15, 2021

Sen. Warren and Rep. Porter Urge Full Use of Defense Production Act to Bolster the Nation's Vaccine Supply as COVID-19 Deaths Hit Daily Records

Amid new reports of vaccine production delays, the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed has failed to use the Act's full authorities to speed production and distribution; "It is incumbent upon the federal government to continue to do everything in its power to ensure that these vaccines are produced and put to use"; In a 15-page memo sent to the incoming Biden-Harris administration, Senator Warren recommended full utilization of the Defense Production Act as a key priority in response to

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Advisor of Operation Warp Speed (OWS), and General Gustave Perna, Chief Operating Officer of OWS, urging OWS to immediately use its full authorities under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to speed up production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, the Trump administration has failed to adequately use these full authorities, and with thousands of daily deaths in the U.S., and new reports of delayed vaccine production, it is imperative that the Trump administration take immediate steps to bolster the nation's vaccine supply and improve manufacturing capacity.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has estimated that achieving herd immunity could require as many as 90% of the American people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. So far, OWS has struck deals to procure 400 million vaccine doses from Moderna and Pfizer, enough to vaccinate 200 million Americans-less than two-thirds of those necessary to truly control the pandemic. A new report earlier this week in the New York Times indicated that there are significant delays in production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is in OWS' pipeline for development but has yet to receive an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

"The limited vaccine supply has contributed to confusion, miscommunication, and frustration between OWS, states, and vaccine manufacturing companies over the purchasing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines-resulting in states receiving smaller shipments than expected and prompting alarm that the U.S. may face a 'vaccine cliff' in the spring," the lawmakers wrote. "After almost one year of fighting the pandemic, the administration has not deployed the DPA to its fullest extent."

Senator Warren and Congresswoman Porter laid out three ways that the DPA can be used to its fullest extent. 

  1. OWS-in conjunction with the Trump administration-should be using the broad authorities provided in the DPA to require information disclosure from pharmaceutical companies about their capabilities and capacity. 
  2. OWS should use this broad information disclosure authority to require corporations that have developed and are producing the vaccine to share information and data needed to facilitate increased production.
  3. The President should employ Title I of the DPA, which gives the President authority to require businesses to accept and prioritize contracts or orders and "allocate materials, services, and facilities to promote the national defense," in order to compel other pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies' involvement in vaccine production if companies will not voluntarily do so.

"We are grateful to the scientists, public servants, and other essential workers who have labored tirelessly to develop life-saving vaccines and therapeutics at record-pace. It is incumbent upon the federal government to continue to do everything in its power to ensure that these vaccines are produced and put to use," the lawmakers concluded

Senator Warren and Congresswoman Porter have requested responses from OWS no later than January 20, 2021.

In addition to the letter to OWS, Senator Warren released a 15-page memo detailing her extensive COVID oversight work and providing recommendations for executive actions that the Biden-Harris administration can take to respond quickly and effectively to the public health crisis. Her memo includes a recommendation to the incoming Biden-Harris administration to fully utilize its authorities under the DPA to stabilize the supply chain of PPE, diagnostic tests, therapeutics, drugs, and other medical products needed to combat COVID-19. Using the DPA this way would allow the federal government to fully understand the capacity of American manufacturers to retool factories and production lines for all features of a vaccine.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Warren has been fighting to ensure that workers on the front lines of this pandemic have the resources they need and that racial and ethnic disparities in testing and treatment are made public and addressed. She foresaw the risks and, as early as 2017, pushed the Trump Administration to put resources and programs in place to respond to a pandemic. She has proposed a series of plans to get us through this crisis, including plans to rapidly expand diagnostic testing and to greatly scale up federal resources for workers, hospitals, small businesses, and state and local governments, so that they can weather this crisis and to stabilize our economy. A detailed timeline of her COVID-19-related oversight and legislative actions can be found here