President Biden scrapped a Wednesday trip to a vaccine manufacturer after a scathing report said the firm’s lobbying left the federal medical supplies stockpile unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden was scheduled to visit a Baltimore facility run by Emergent BioSolutions, but he canceled the trip following the Sunday report.
“We just felt [the White House] was a more appropriate place to have the meeting,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday at her daily press briefing.
“The administration is going to undertake a comprehensive review and audit of the National Stockpile,” she said.
The CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck are expected to meet with Biden to discuss the rollout of the third US-approved COVID-19 vaccine. Emergent is working with those companies under a federal Operation Warp Speed contract. It’s unclear if an Emergent representative will attend the White House meeting after the venue change.
Emergent’s long-running sales of an anthrax vaccine, supported by a $3 million annual lobbying budget since 2010, used up much of the Strategic National Stockpile’s pre-pandemic purchasing, the New York Times reported.
Last year, as nurses wore garbage bags due to shortages of protective gear, the company sold to the government $626 million in anthrax vaccines, which spoil on shelves if they aren’t used.
The anthrax vaccine only slightly improves patient outcomes when it supplements cheap antibiotics, according to the report. But the company’s anthrax vaccine soaked up 40 percent of national stockpile funds from 2010 through 2018, even though there hasn’t been an anthrax attack since a 2001 letter campaign that killed five.
Emergent reportedly earns a profit of 75 percent from the anthrax vaccine, the license for which it bought in 1998 from the state of Michigan before upping the price. It reportedly undercut a rival company’s effort to manufacture a second vaccine.