Public Health

New hope for fixing supply chain problems on PPE, tests, vaccines

Kevin B. O'Reilly , Senior News Editor

What’s the news: The Biden administration is signaling its early willingness to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of personal protective equipment (PPE), along with supplies needed for COVID-19 vaccines and tests.

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The AMA hopes such steps “will quickly fix the supply chain issues that have plagued the U.S. for many months—providing health care professionals with the PPE they need to protect themselves, their patients and families from illness, ramping up testing to identify COVID-19 illness more quickly, and getting the vaccines into more arms,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD. That includes the syringes, pipettes and other medical supplies that are needed.

“Since March, the AMA has called on the federal government to implement a coordinated national strategy and pull every lever to ramp up PPE production for N95 masks, gowns, gloves, as well as testing supplies—and coordinate distribution,” Dr. Bailey noted.

“We commend the new administration for moving swiftly to implement a desperately needed national strategy to combat COVID-19, including a health equity task force to address the inequities that have been exacerbated during the pandemic,” she added.

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Among other things, President Joe Biden has moved through executive action to:

  • Establish a pandemic testing board to identify issues and help implement testing solutions
  • Direct actions to address the cost of COVID-19 testing.
  • Establish a public health workforce plan.
  • Establish a COVID-19 health equity task force.
  • Identify actions to ensure equitable response, including those to address vaccine hesitancy.
  • Require an immediate inventory of response supplies and identify areas of need.
  • Direct the use of Defense Production Act to address shortages.
  • Enhance COVID-19 data collection and strengthen public health infrastructure.

Why it’s important: The nation has passed the sobering mark of 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19. Dr. Bailey, who called it “a once unimaginable toll,” noted that “one in every 820 people in our country have died during this pandemic—often alone, typically away from family and friends—comforted only by physicians and nurses in layers of PPE.”

In a recent episode of the “AMA COVID-19 Update,” AMA Chief Health and Science Officer Mira Irons, MD, added another perspective.

“We have now passed another milestone, with 25 million confirmed cases recorded in the United States,” she said. “That tally works out to one in about every 13 people.”

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Dr. Irons said she is particularly encouraged by Biden’s appointment of COVID-19 response coordinator to make sure all elements of the government’s response—including production, supply and distribution of personal protective equipment, vaccines and tests—are working swiftly. That coordinator will be Jeffrey Zients, who helped revive after its rocky rollout in 2013. 

“I come from the hospital work environment, and the name on the top of the ... chart, that’s the attending physician and that’s the person in charge,” she said. “I kind of look at this on an uber level, a federal level—the person that will be in charge of this effort.”



Learn more: Read more from Dr. Bailey about why our nation needs a unified and comprehensive pandemic response.

Stay updated with the AMA to get the latest information on COVID-19 vaccination. The AMA has developed documents to answer frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination: one is aimed at physicians, and the other addresses patient queries.