The Corner

Politics & Policy

New York Times: Biden Expanded a Vaccination Program That Trump’s Team Built

A pharmacist fills a syringe with the COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site in William Reid Apartments in Brooklyn, N.Y., January 23, 2021. (Mary Altaffer/Reuters)

Credit the New York Times for not buying the Biden administration’s spin that it had to start “from scratch” on vaccinating Americans.

A closer look at the ramp-up announced last week offers a more mixed picture, one in which the new administration expanded and bulked up a vaccine production effort whose key elements were in place when Mr. Biden took over for President Donald J. Trump. Both administrations deserve credit, although neither wants to grant much to the other.

The Biden administration has taken two major steps that helped hasten vaccine production in the near term. Even before Mr. Biden was inaugurated, his aides determined that by invoking the Korean War-era Defense Production Act, the federal government could help Pfizer obtain the heavy machinery it needed to expand its plant in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Trump administration had repeatedly invoked that law, but its order for Pfizer only covered single-use supplies like plastic liners, not durable factory equipment.

Crucially, Mr. Biden’s top aides drove another vaccine manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, to force a key subcontractor into round-the-clock operations so its vaccine could be bottled faster. That company had fallen behind on the production targets laid out in its federal contract. Only after Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s chief pandemic adviser, and Dr. David Kessler, who oversees the vaccine effort, demanded the company commit more resources did it publicly pledge to meet a crucial deadline in May.

…“They criticize what we did, but they are using our playbook every step of the way,” said Paul Mango, the Trump administration’s deputy chief of staff for health policy and a senior official in the crash vaccine development effort then known as Operation Warp Speed. He said Mr. Trump’s team oversaw the construction or expansion of nearly two dozen plants involved in vaccine production and invoked the Defense Production Act 18 times to ensure those factories had sufficient supplies.

Of course, this is not news to you if you read Yuval Levin right after Inauguration Day and on January 27, or David Harsanyi on January 25, Tobias Hoonhout and Ryan Mills’s interviews with Operation Warp Speed staffers back on late January 26, or the Morning Jolt on January 27 or Robert Zubrin a few days later, or . . . well, you get the idea.

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