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Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Lawmakers seek expanded global COVID-19 vaccine access

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A group of lawmakers recently forwarded correspondence to the three companies producing COVID-19 vaccines, seeking their plans to expand COVID-19 vaccines access globally.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), and Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT) sent letters to Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The senators noted that their request comes as India faces a humanitarian and public health crisis, with over 350,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day earlier this week.

“COVID-19 has infected over 148 million people and killed over three million globally, with hundreds of thousands of new cases and thousands of deaths being reported daily,” the lawmakers wrote. “Though Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and other companies have developed safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the uncontrolled spread of coronavirus poses significant risks to global vaccination efforts: as the virus proliferates, it evolves-increasing the risk of a variant developing that renders vaccinations ineffective.”

The legislators noted India is a major producer of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines and has exported over 66 million doses globally since January 2021. They also acknowledged that India is struggling to vaccinate quickly enough to quell the outbreak in the midst of the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.

The lawmakers maintain there are several steps vaccine companies can take to expand access to vaccines globally, such as deciding to share technology, such as vaccine recipes and manufacturing information with partner companies as a means of expediting production.

The legislators have requested a response from the vaccine-producing companies no later than May 11.