November 10, 2020
WASHINGTON — At the Republican leadership press conference today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), talked about the latest developments in the progress toward a COVID-19 vaccine. As Labor/HHS chairman, Blunt highlighted Congress’ role in providing critical funding to accelerate vaccine development through Operation Warp Speed.
Following Are Blunt’s Remarks:
“Well, Leader, thanks for mentioning the vaccines. I do think that now we're beyond the election that a lot of the skepticism that people have had about the vaccine effort will go away. Once people look seriously at this, I think they're going to see that, frankly, the administration and the Congress, Congress providing $18 billion to invest in vaccines and therapeutics and about $12.5 billion of that, into vaccines, rewrote the chapter of the pandemic book on how you do this.
“We're at least a year ahead of where anybody would have thought we would have been in February or March of this year. Pfizer was a partner, a little different partner, every one of these partnerships is a little bit different. The Pfizer deal was, we're confident in our vaccine, we're sure we're going to get there if you'll guarantee the federal government will distribute, and you'll buy $2 billion worth of it. That's the deal with us. AstraZeneca, Moderna, a little bit differently, but all of these companies, plus about three more, are all making vaccines as they get near the end of the trial period. So there'll be several million copies of any of these vaccines available on day one, and once you get that system started, it begins to produce vaccines pretty quickly.
“I think the distribution effort [has] been well thought out, the states have all submitted a plan. Hopefully, the states will all respond to the proposal of how the vaccine would be allocated to health care workers and first responders first. People most in danger of having the worst results if they got the virus. Nursing homes would be a big group in that. And then the essential employees of the country, the school bus drivers, the teachers, the daycare center workers, the grocery store clerk, the food processing employee. People who are in a lot of contact with other people, if they can't get it, they can't give it to you.
“So every day, as you take these groups off the danger zone of the vaccine, not only do they get safer, but everybody else gets safer. And by the time you get to the end of those groups, you've had about 50% of the American population would have had the ability to have the vaccine, and then we'll see what happens with everybody else. And on those companies that we thought had a better chance of being successful than not, and they're not successful, the American taxpayers are going to lose a little money on that. And, in fact, if we didn't have a failure here, we weren't trying hard enough. We weren't pushing the envelope far enough. Remember, all these vaccines will be a little bit different from any of the others, and they're all being produced irrespective of what's happening anywhere else.
“So this is really big news. I, again, hope as we now move beyond the election discussion to a real pandemic response discussion, that people are going to appreciate what's really happened, both what the administration did, and I'd suggest, most importantly, what the Congress was willing to appropriate money for.”