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US President Joe Biden (Photo/ANI)
US President Joe Biden (Photo/ANI)

Biden to direct agencies to use Defense Production Act in COVID-19 fight

ANI | Updated: Jan 21, 2021 18:23 IST

Washington [US], January 21 (ANI): US President Joe Biden will issue an executive order on Thursday directing agencies to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other powers to speed up the manufacturing of testing and vaccine supplies and other items needed to fight COVID-19 in the country.
According to The Hill, the Biden administration officials signalled they would be "more aggressive" than former President Donald Trump's administration in invoking the DPA, which allows the federal government to force companies to increase the production of critical supplies during national emergencies.
"Where we can produce more, we will. Where we need to use the Defense Production Act to help more be made, we'll do that too," said Tim Manning, Biden's COVID-19 supply coordinator, in a call with reporters on Wednesday as quoted by The Hill.
Manning said that his team has identified 12 "immediate supply shortfalls", that include N-95 masks, isolation gowns, gloves and swabs needed for tests.
Officials said that the new administration will also use the DPA for the acceleration in the production of syringes, raw materials used in vaccines, and other items needed to quickly vaccinate as many people as possible.
"The team will work with the states and the manufacturers to ensure that we're using the DPA as aggressively as needed to accelerate the supply of the vaccine," said Bechara Choucair, Biden's COVID-19 vaccine coordinator.
Critics have argued that while the Trump administration used the DPA to increase the supply of ventilators, masks and other supplies, he was not being aggressive enough to close shortages of supplies.
"President Trump has not used his DPA authority sufficiently enough to award adequate medical supply contracts for the nation's needs. We must immediately do more to re-shore the most in-demand PPE, such as nitrile gloves, nearly all of which are manufactured in China," a group of Democratic senators wrote in a letter this week to Biden, urging him to invoke the DPA as quoted by The Hill.
A key part of the Biden administration's national strategy for defeating the coronavirus is invoking the DPA.

Biden's strategy is centered around seven goals, including restoring trust with the American people; mounting a safe and effective vaccination campaign; expanding masking, testing, data and treatments; building the health care workforce; safely reopening schools, businesses and travel while protecting workers; protecting those most at risk for serious illness, including people of colour; and restoring US leadership globally, the plan stated as cited by The Hill.
"For almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy, let alone a comprehensive approach to respond to COVID," said Jeff Zients, Biden's COVID-19 response coordinator.
"This is a plan that is driven by science data and public health, it's not driven by politics," The Hill quoted him saying.
The plan also lays out goals to establish an "effective, comprehensive" and "aggressive" vaccination campaign but did not offer timetables for when shots will be available to the general public.
"We must do this, equitably, we cannot miss vaccinating communities that are hit hardest by the pandemic. This is going to have to be critical to our success... We must do this, equitably, we cannot miss vaccinating communities that are hit hardest by the pandemic. This is going to have to be critical to our success," Choucair told reporters.
The administration had already set a goal of getting 100 million people vaccinated within the first 100 days of Biden's first term.
The Hill also reported that Biden will also sign executive orders on Thursday increasing federal reimbursement to states and tribes from 75 per cent to 100 per cent of the cost for National Guard personnel and emergency supplies, like PPEs, cleaning and sanitising efforts and opening mass vaccination centers.
Biden would also sign another executive order creating a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which will provide recommendations to the president for allocating resources and funding in communities that are disproportionately impacted by the pathogen.
At least 24.4 million cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University. (ANI)