WASHINGTON, D.C. — Saying he is “cautiously optimistic” that a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine will be developed, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D., CA-36, is putting pressure on companies to ensure vulnerable populations and frontline workers have access to it.
“Big Pharma beware! Vaccine distribution must prioritize first those who are at highest risk of getting infected and of dying from COVID-19 disproportionately and not simply the rich, powerful, and healthy,” Ruiz said in a prepared statement. “I am laying the groundwork to make health equity a priority in the front end and not an afterthought and so my constituents who need them the most can get them!”
During a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, Ruiz questioned executives on their vaccine distribution plans to address health disparities.
“Having millions of vaccines is a good first step, but we also need to be planning now how we get vaccines into the hands of the people that need it most,” Ruiz said at the hearing. “I don’t want to look back and have health equity be an afterthought. It has to be prioritized.”
You can watch Ruiz’s remarks here.
On April 17, 2020, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership “to develop a coordinated research strategy for prioritizing and speeding development of the most promising treatments and vaccines.”
On May 15, Operation Warp Speed (OWS) initiative was announced – a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, private firms, and other federal agencies focused on accelerating the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 countermeasures, including vaccines. OWS aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021, which would set a new record for a vaccine development timeline.
As of July 15, 2020, at least 140 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in preclinical evaluation. On Tuesday, Dr. Ruiz questioned representatives of five of those companies — AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, and Pfizer — and asked for them to send their plans to ensure equitable distribution of vaccinations.
- Covid-19 vaccine: Shutterstock