Biden Will Use Defense Production Act To Supply Vaccines, Adviser Says

WESTBOROUGH - DECEMBER 28: Olivia Siegel, CVS Pharmacist kept an eye on the temperature of the bag containing doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Wes... WESTBOROUGH - DECEMBER 28: Olivia Siegel, CVS Pharmacist kept an eye on the temperature of the bag containing doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Westborough, MA on Dec. 28, 2020. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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December 28, 2020 2:12 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden will use a Korean War-era law to supply vaccines and other COVID-19 essentials, an adviser said Monday. 

The Trump administration has been somewhat reluctant to use the Defense Production Act, a law that allows the federal government to order private industries to initiate or prioritize certain orders. 

But Celine Gounder, a member of Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board, said Monday that Biden’s DPA use would mark a departure from the current President. 

“You will see him invoking the Defense Production Act,” Gounder said on CNBC. “The idea there is to make sure the personal protective equipment, the test capacity and the raw materials for the vaccines are produced in adequate supply so that those aren’t limiting steps in all of this.”

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NBC News reported last week that Biden advisers were weighing whether he should invoke the law to help with vaccine output. One unnamed adviser told the network that Biden officials were concerned about invoking the law equitably, without favoring one company over another. 

Multiple outlets reported last week that the U.S. would likely invoke the DPA as part of a deal last week with Pfizer for 100 million more vaccine doses. The law, the Associated Press reported, was expected to be used in order to help Pfizer secure several raw vaccine ingredients for the vaccines. 

The Trump administration acknowledged Monday that it will not meet its first vaccine distribution goal; Biden, earlier this month, said he aimed to deliver “at least 100 million COVID vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” in his first 100 days in office.

The Trump administration has occasionally used the DPA, invoking it earlier this year to keep meat processing plants open and to pressure GE to take a government order to produce ventilators.

Jeff Bialos, who served as deputy undersecretary of Defense for Industrial Affairs from 1999-2000, told TPM that the Trump administration had employed the DPA’s legal tools in certain circumstances.

“But it’s very ad hoc, it has the feel that it’s been an insider’s game, through companies that have relationships,” Bialos said. “It just hasn’t been done in an analytical, arms-length, reasonable manner.”

Various agencies have used the DPA a couple dozen times during the pandemic to prioritize specific orders or expand domestic supply of PPE and medical supplies, according to a November Government Accountability Office report.

Biden said on the campaign trail that he would use the DPA to aid the government’s response to the pandemic, but he’s said less about the law’s specific role in facilitating vaccine production. The President-elect’s transition team did not respond to TPM’s request for more details on Monday.

This post has been updated.

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