President Donald Trump said the COVID-19 outbreak highlights the importance of bringing back to the United States previously offshored supply chains for drugs and gear “that we need so badly” to fight the spread of the virus.
“The coronavirus shows the importance of bringing manufacturing back to America so that we are producing, at home, the medicines and equipment and everything else that we need to protect the public’s health,” Trump said. “That process has already started.”
“We want to make certain things at home. We want to be doing our manufacturing at home. It’s not only done in China; it’s done in many other places, including Ireland, and a lot of places make our different drugs and things that we need so badly,” Trump said.
At the meeting, pharmaceutical executives told Trump that treatments—though not yet vaccines—for COVID-19 could be ready in months.
One treatment, according to Lenny Schleifer, CEO of Regeneron, would reportedly not only treat people who have been infected, but also protect those who have not contracted COVID-19, by supplying them with premade antibodies that vaccines normally produce.
“If you get immunized with one of these vaccines, you’re going to make some antibodies to protect you,” Schleifer said. “We’re going to already make those antibodies and give them to you, so you don’t have to go through that whole process. So it’ll protect you.
“If all goes well, 200,000 doses per month can come out of our factory in New York, starting in August.”
A vaccine, according to a top U.S. health official, is still up to 18 months away.
‘Giant Wake-Up Call’Rosemary Gibson, a senior adviser at the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute, told The Epoch Times previously that reliance on other countries for life-saving medicines makes the United States vulnerable.
“This is a giant wake-up call,” she said, adding that the coronavirus-related supply-chain disruption has made this vulnerability hit home.
“The U.S. can no longer make generic antibiotics. Because the U.S. has allowed the industrial base to wither, the U.S. cannot produce generic antibiotics for children’s ear infections, strep throat, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sexually-transmitted diseases, Lyme disease, superbugs and other infections that are threats to human life. We cannot make the generic antibiotics for anthrax exposure,” she told lawmakers.
“The nation’s health security is in jeopardy.”
Besides drug shortage risks, supply chain disruption has resulted in shortages of personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told Congress on Feb. 25 that the United States has a stockpile of about 30 million N95 masks, but might need as many as 300 million during the outbreak.
“I’ve been preaching the same message since 2007,” Mike Bowen, the founder of the Secure Mask Supply Association, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “For fourteen years, I’ve warned about America’s foreign-controlled mask supply.”
Bowen has warned that an epidemic in China would disrupt supplies of masks, and if the outbreak turned into a global pandemic, this would seriously limit the response capability in countries like the United States.
During an interagency call on Feb. 26, officials from HHS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) discussed the possibility of invoking the Defense Production Act for the manufacture of personal protective equipment that can be worn to prevent infection, according to a DHS official.
‘A Devastating Indictment’Trade expert Alan Tonelson praised the Trump administration’s efforts to reshore key manufacturing capacity.
“A U.S. economy heavily reliant on vital medicines and their ingredients from an increasingly hostile and secretive China is a devastating indictment of pre-Trump national security and public health policy,” Tonelson told The Epoch Times in an email.
“But the purely economic effects shouldn’t be overlooked either, as globalist leaders also encouraged the buildup of China as a huge global manufacturing hub, and thereby exposed Americans to the risk of shortages and other supply chain risks in a wide variety of critical products.”
The White House is also expected to meet this week with top executives from U.S. airlines and the cruise industry over the impact of the virus to their businesses, two people briefed on the matter said.