The Biden administration has inked a virtually $137 million contract with a pharmaceutical firm to construct a manufacturing unit in Wisconsin to provide materials utilized in COVID-19 check strips — however the completed product just isn’t scheduled to roll off meeting strains earlier than late 2024.
The Defense Department announced the $136.7 million deal Wednesday with Millipore Sigma, a unit of Germany’s Merck KGaA, to assemble the ability at its Sheboygan web site over the subsequent three years with a purpose to enhance manufacturing of nitrocellulose membranes, the paper that shows the check outcomes.
The deal, labored out in coordination with the Division of Well being and Human Providers, will permit 83.3 million extra checks to be produced every month.
Millipore Sigma spokeswoman Rachel Bloom-Baglin advised The Submit Thursday the years-long timeline was as a result of “complicated course of” of manufacturing the membranes, which she described as “highly-engineered items of paper.”
Millipore Sigma noted in a statement that the membranes are utilized in fast checks for illnesses apart from COVID-19, together with HIV, influenza and malaria, “in addition to in ladies’s well being, biomarker detection, drug testing, meals security and animal well being.”
“We’re grateful to the Biden administration for recognizing this want,” Bloom-Baglin mentioned.
The announcement comes because the US makes an attempt to weather a testing crunch amid a surge of COVID-19 instances fueled by the extremely transmissible Omicron variant — and suggests the administration sees an ongoing want for coronavirus testing over the subsequent few years, with the Protection Division launch noting that the Wisconsin facility will assist “future wants.”
Funds for the contract had been allotted by means of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan enacted earlier this yr.
The White Home coronavirus response workforce mentioned Wednesday that the administration wouldn’t have the ability to ink contracts to mass-mail 500 million COVID-19 fast checks till “late subsequent week” regardless of the dire shortages.
“That implies that the primary deliveries from producers will begin in January. We’ll arrange a free and straightforward system, together with a brand new web site, to get these checks out to People,” Jeff Zients, the White Home response coordinator, mentioned. “We’re actively working to finalize that distribution mechanism, which features a web site the place folks will have the ability to order checks free of charge.”
President Biden mentioned on Monday that he would have “gone tougher, faster” to distribute checks had he recognized that the Omicron variant was going to trigger a spike in coronavirus instances.
“We went from no over-the-counter checks in January to 46 million in October, 100 million in November and nearly 200 million in December. That’s not sufficient. It’s clearly not sufficient. If I — we’d recognized, we might have gone tougher, faster if we might have,” Biden mentioned throughout a digital assembly with the Nationwide Governors Affiliation.
The president additionally denied Monday that his administration rejected a proposal in October to mass-distribute fast checks in preparation for a winter surge in instances.
“We didn’t reject it,” Biden claimed in response to a query from The Submit.
With Submit wires