HHS Secretary Becerra Highlights Progress Made in Strengthening U.S. Medical Supply Chain and Industrial Base
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra today issued a new report highlighting the progress that has been made over the past year to strengthen the U.S. public health and medical supply chain and industrial base.
The report highlights the U.S. government’s accomplishments in addressing public health and medical supply chain challenges since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, describes how HHS is implementing the recommendations and goals in the National Strategy for a Resilient Public Health Supply Chain, and outlines additional actions the U.S. government can take to build on its progress.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed just how vulnerable the U.S. supply chain and U.S. manufacturing were in years past. Our reliance on manufacturing overseas created significant medical supply shortages for health care workers and put the health and security of the American people in danger,” said Secretary Becerra. “The Biden-Harris Administration, working with private industry, has made great strides in addressing these inherited challenges, for example, quadrupling the monthly supply of at-home COVID-19 rapid tests in the United States to ensure students and workers arrive healthy to schools and their places of employment.”
Over the past year, HHS has invested $250 million in U.S.-based manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and $950 million in manufacturing the supplies and equipment needed for vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostic tests. Through partnerships with the private sector, utilization of the Defense Product Act, and reallocation of resources, HHS has distributed more than 685 million vaccine doses to 90,000 vaccination sites nationwide, launched a program to deliver up to 500 million free COVID-19 tests to Americans’ homes, and shipped hundreds of millions of N95 masks to pharmacies and community health clinics nationwide so that any American who wants a higher-quality mask can get one.
“Today we have the tools we need to fight the pandemic—vaccines and boosters, tests, and treatments—thanks to the Biden-Harris’ Administration’s sustained focus on building U.S.-based capacity for critical medical supplies,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell. “Over the past year, as a result of strong collaboration between public and private sectors, we’ve significantly increased U.S.-made PPE, tests and diagnostic devices, therapeutics, vaccines, and the active pharmaceutical ingredients to make them. For example, in January 2021, the U.S. had no over-the-counter antigen tests and today we have hundreds of millions of tests per month, with an anticipated capacity to produce over 1 billion a month beginning in March.
In 2021, HHS experts analyzed three critical supply chains: PPE and durable medical equipment; testing and diagnostics; and pharmaceuticals—including vaccines. Factors that contributed to the lack of security in medical supply chains included reliance on foreign sources for components of medical supplies, focus on lowest-cost, reducing diversity across the supply chain, workforce shortages, financial barriers to entry and expansion, and lack of visibility and coordination across the supply chain.
Specific progress in development, procurement, and distribution efforts described in the report includes:
- HHS and the Department of Defense collaborated to award nine contracts totaling $950 million to increase availability of required raw materials to produce vaccines, expand fill-finish capacity (the final step in the manufacturing process), and increase vial manufacturing capacity. Resolving the supply and equipment issues led to distribution of three FDA-authorized or approved vaccines to 90,000 vaccination locations nationwide with hundreds of thousands of new doses administered daily. Over 675 million doses of vaccines have been delivered, contributing to 64% of the U.S. population now being fully vaccinated.
- HHS shipped more than 230 million N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile to pharmacies and community health clinics nationwide so that any American who wants one has access to a free, high-quality mask. Additionally, the federal government invested in manufacturing capacity to domestically produce tens of millions of N95 masks per month, with the capability to surge to hundreds of millions per month.
- HHS increased testing supply, availability, and affordability. There were zero over-the-counter tests in January 2021, but now there is manufacturing capacity for hundreds of millions of tests per month. HHS has shipped free tests to 50 million American households – 200 million tests – through COVIDTests.gov. HHS has procured over 500 million tests and is in the process of contracting for another 500 million tests.
- HHS also distributed more than 2.5 million courses of life-saving therapeutics to states and territories for free. Today, multiple treatments in the nation’s medicine cabinet continue to work even in the face of evolving variants. HHS recently purchased 600,000 doses of a new monoclonal antibody that works against both Omicron and the BA.2 subvariant as well as an additional 1 million vials of Evusheld, a pre-exposure treatment for immunocompromised individuals.
The report is one of six reports on America’s supply chains in response to Executive Order 14017. HHS is the lead federal department for this effort and continues to coordinate the federal response to strengthen the public health and medical supply chain and expand the capacity of the nation’s domestic industrial base to build back better in the face of future health security threats.