Top House Democrats including Oversight Committee chair Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis chair James Clyburn (S.C.) have launched an investigation into the role that a former top Trump administration official had in the awarding of a federal contract to produce vaccines to a company that ended up ruining millions of doses through contamination. The company, called Emergent Biosolutions, failed to implement appropriate quality control procedures to avert a mix-up in which ingredients for the AstraZeneca vaccine were used for Johnson & Johnson shots, and some 15 million doses of the latter vaccine had to be disposed of.
Top House Democrats have launched an investigation into whether Emergent Biosolutions, which recently botched 15 million COVID vaccine doses, won the federal contract to make the shots based on its cozy relationship with a top former Trump official. https://t.co/1YUt0sQvds
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 21, 2021
Maloney and Clyburn have requested the testimony of Emergent Biosolutions CEO Robert G. Kramer and executive chairman Fuad El-Hibri before the House COVID-19 subcommittee on May 19. In their letter asking for this testimony, Maloney and Clyburn said that they “are investigating reports that Emergent received multi-million-dollar contracts to manufacture coronavirus vaccines despite a long, documented history of inadequately trained staff and quality control issues.”
The Trump administration official with connections to the company, Dr. Robert Kadlec, served as Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services — and, up to 2015, he worked a consultant for Emergent Biosolutions.
Discussing the $628 million in federal cash that Emergent received to set up manufacturing for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Maloney and Clyburn said in their new letter that Kadlec “appears to have pushed for this award despite indications that Emergent did not have the ability to reliably fulfill the contract.” Now, Maloney and Clyburn are also requesting copies of all communications between Emergent and Kadlec, among a slew of other materials.
The support was mutual — Emergent, which has also provided anthrax vaccines for the U.S. government stockpile, sought the transfer of oversight of that stockpile from elsewhere in the federal government to Kadlec’s office, according to Maloney and Clyburn. Emergent has apparently raised the price for the government to purchase the anthrax vaccine by 800 percent since taking control of the vaccine back in 1998.
The contaminated COVID-19 vaccine doses were never released for public use, but the problem at the Emergent plant has posed a setback for efforts to swiftly get Americans vaccinated.