Biden announces plan to build Covid supply chains

22 January 2021

Newly-inaugerated US president Joe Biden has signed an executive order outlining measures to build a “sustainable public health supply chain” to address the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In one of his first executive orders since being sworn in on Wednesday 20 January, Biden called on officials to provide a strategy within the next 180 days to “design, build, and sustain a long-term capability in the United States” for the manufacturing of pandemic-related supplies.

The order outlined immediate actions the government would take to “secure supplies necessary for responding to the pandemic, so that those supplies are available, and remain available, to the federal government and state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities, as well as to America’s health care workers, health systems, and patients”.

The order said the strategy must analyse the “role of foreign supply chains in America’s pandemic supply chain” and “address points of failure in the supply chains”.

The strategy should also determine the role of a national stockpile to distribute pandemic supplies, as well as an “approach to develop a multi-year implementation plan for domestic production of pandemic supplies”. 

As part of the order, Biden requested officials identify potential shortages and pricing issues around pandemic response supplies.

Officials must immediately review the availability of critical materials, treatments, and supplies needed to combat Covid-19, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), and the resources to produce and distribute tests and vaccines at scale.

Where shortfalls are identified, officials must fill them by “acquiring additional stockpiles, improving distribution systems, building market capacity, or expanding the industrial base”.

Biden requested officials identify any changes that needed to be made to an executive order signed by predecessor president Donald Trump to prevent hoarding and price gouging of in-demand items such as sanitisers and PPE.

Recommendations for addressing the pricing of pandemic response supplies included “whether and how to direct the use of reasonable pricing clauses in federal contracts and investment agreements or other related vehicles”.

Officials must also discuss whether to use General Services Administration (GSA) Schedules to facilitate government buyers in purchasing pandemic response supplies.

GSAs are long-term government-wide contracts with commercial firms that provide government buyers with access to commercial supplies and services at volume discount pricing.

“These supplies are vital to the nation’s ability to reopen its schools and economy as soon and safely as possible, “ the order said.

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