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Opinion: COVID-19 shows we cannot rely on China for medical supplies

Tim Walberg

China has long posed a threat to America’s security, but the communist government’s actions during COVID-19 have magnified a series of challenges that we must confront as a country.

At the top of the list is our supply chain’s oversized reliance on China for critical resources. It doesn’t just impact health care — it’s an economic and national security imperative as well.

America cannot afford further supply chain disruptions that led to product shortages like those we experienced at the outset of this pandemic, particularly when it comes to day-to-day medications and personal protective equipment. In addition to finished medications, an overwhelming amount of active pharmaceutical ingredients used in drug manufacturing comes from China. 

Depending on China for our pharmaceutical supply chain must come to an end, Walberg writes.

That’s why President Trump’s focus on “Made in America” — and reducing our dependency on foreign nations — is so important. Cutting-edge research and development needs to happen right here in the United States, beginning with the urgent task of discovering, producing and eventually distributing a vaccine for COVID-19.

Under the president’s leadership, our nation has been working around the clock on the development of a safe and effective vaccine. Known as Operation Warp Speed, the best scientific minds in the public and private sectors have mobilized toward a unified purpose: Expedite the vaccine development process to a record-breaking pace. The goal of this herculean public-private partnership is 300 million doses by the beginning of 2021.

Thanks to emergency relief legislation like the CARES Act that we passed in the House, almost $10 billion in federal resources has been invested in this life-saving effort.

The path forward is already showing promise. In a matter of months, three American vaccine candidates are in phase three clinical trials. Others are not far behind. For comparison, the average time it typically takes to get a vaccine to market is 10 years.

The availability of a vaccine is also a top priority under Operation Warp Speed, and Michigan’s workforce has a critical role to play in this outcome. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense recently reached an agreement with Pfizer to produce and deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine as soon as it receives approval. The agreement authorizes production of an additional 500 million doses as needed. By taking these pre-ordering steps, we can ensure the fastest possible distribution to the public.

It is essential to underscore the project’s objective of reducing administrative delays without sacrificing safety. To complete this accelerated process, rigorous and large-scale testing are prerequisites for success. Once the data is available, the Food and Drug Administration has made assurances it will only grant approval to a vaccine that achieves every scientific standard. This dual track approach — simultaneously prioritizing speed and safety — will save lives and help society return to normalcy.

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of reasserting America’s global leadership in medical innovation and manufacturing capacity. The days of depending on China for our pharmaceutical supply chain must come to an end. As we look to the future, we need to harness every tool at our disposal to defeat this invisible enemy and rebuild our economic strength here at home.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, represents Michigan’s 7th District and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Education and Labor Committee.