Reps. Bera and Yoho Urge Administration to Lead International Efforts to Coordinate Production and Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccine | Congressman Ami Bera

Reps. Bera and Yoho Urge Administration to Lead International Efforts to Coordinate Production and Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccine

May 1, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Rep. Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, and Rep. Ted S. Yoho, DVM (R-FL), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, today sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the United States to participate in and lead international efforts to coordinate the production and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on our public health and economy. Increased testing and contact tracing will allow states to begin slowly loosening restrictions, but only with a vaccine will Americans be able to truly return to normal,” said Rep. Bera. “While I firmly believe that the U.S. will be the first country to develop a vaccine, it’s possible that others may do so first. That’s why it’s critical that the U.S. lead on the international development, production, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, including the creation of an international mechanism to ensure that a vaccine reaches healthcare workers around the world first. In the absence of U.S. participation and leadership, we risk the rules being dictated by countries that may not share our values, which could leave American healthcare workers without access to a vaccine when others receive it.”

“I'm honored to work with Chairman Bera to lead the United States initiative to join a multinational coalition to support the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI),” said Rep. Yoho. “One thing for certain is that American and the rest of the world was caught ill prepared in the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time for the United States to show leadership and contribute the funding necessary to support research and vaccine development for not only tackling COVID-19, but many other future diseases to come. Most importantly, we must work with the international community to quickly deliver a safe vaccine so that people, economies, and countries can return to some form of normalcy. All these actions will keep us better prepared and safer in the future.”

Click here or see below for the full letter.

Rep. Bera and Rep. Yoho introduced legislation in March to authorize the United States to participate in the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI, an international public-private partnership, is currently helping to lead efforts to build an international vaccine cooperation mechanism. Participation in CEPI would accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines as well as providing a stake and a voice in CEPI’s vaccine cooperation efforts.

Rep. Bera has been a leader in Congress on global health security and the COVID-19 pandemic. He chaired the first congressional hearing on the coronavirus on Feb. 5th, sounded the alarm after the Trump Administration disbanded the global health security office in the National Security Council in 2018, and is a member on the CSIS Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security, which in November 2019 made a series of recommendations to prevent pandemics.

 

May 1, 2020 
 
The Honorable Mike Pompeo                                         
Secretary                                                                       
U.S. Department of State                                                                                            
 
Dear Secretary Pompeo,                                                                                                                                                                           
 
We are writing to urge the United States to participate and help lead international efforts to coordinate the distribution of a vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19. These efforts are critical to ensuring the health and safety of all Americans, as well as the return to a smoothly functioning economy.  
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched countless Americans and citizens around the world. It has taken far too many lives and devastated our economy. While increased testing and contact tracing will enable us to relax physical distancing measures, Americans will not be able to truly return to normal until the development of a safe and effective vaccine. In particular, our health care workers and other essential workers will remain at acute risk until they are able to be immunized.  
 
The pandemic is also demonstrating the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our entire country. American workers and companies, academia, and the public sector have all mobilized to develop a vaccine. The U.S. government has identified and funded three promising vaccine candidates through BARDA and NIH. We have every reason to believe that some of these candidates will ultimately be successful, but the nature of vaccine development means some won’t work.  
 
We should prepare ourselves for the potential consequences if a U.S. vaccine candidate is not the winner of the international vaccine race. The market for the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will truly be a global one. It will require international supply chains for material ranging from preservatives to glass vials, which the U.S. may not have the capacity to produce solely on its own. Securing the cooperation of countries that control these supplies will be critical going forward.  
 
It is for this reason that we urge U.S. participation in efforts to ensure development, production, and distribution of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is coordinated among international purchasers. Coordinated action would help manage and accelerate component sourcing, production and coproduction, and determine mechanisms for pricing and distribution. Most importantly, it would also develop a prioritization scheme to ensure the world’s health care and other essential workers are immunized first, regardless of whose nation’s vaccine wins.  
 
We understand that there are active conversations to develop this international mechanism and framework for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. The United States needs to participate in and be a leader of these conversations. In our absence, we risk the rules and guidelines could be dictated by other countries who may not share our values. Should a U.S. candidate not cross the finish line first and an international 
framework is established without U.S. participation, other countries may receive a vaccine before our health care and other essential workers. We cannot let that happen.  
 
In particular, the U.S. should consider participating in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI is funding the development of nine SARS-CoV-2 candidates. The organization is currently leading efforts to build an international vaccine cooperation mechanism. Participation in CEPI would accelerate the development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines as well as providing a stake and a voice in CEPI’s vaccine cooperation efforts 
 
American ingenuity and leadership have helped contain diseases ranging from Ebola to polio, and eradicated smallpox. We can do so again. We stand ready to assist American leadership to enhance those efforts.  
 
Sincerely, 

Ami Bera, M.D.
Chairman, Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation
House Foreign Affairs Committee 
 
Ted Yoho, D.V.M.
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation