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De Blasio presses Big Pharma to help with vaccine efforts and short supply

The Moderna vaccine Dr. Torian received.
Photo by Dean Moses

Mayor Bill de Blasio bashed pharmaceutical companies Wednesday as he continued his campaign for more COVID-19 vaccine supply, production, and distribution.

With fewer than 30,000 first doses on hand, de Blasio said during his daily briefing on Feb. 17, the city will run out soon if stores aren’t replenished. 

“Once again we’re in this ridiculous situation. We have massive ability to give people vaccinations. We could be doing hundreds of thousands more each week, and we’re running out because we’re not getting what we need,” said de Blasio.

Growing vaccine efforts are being stunted and called on the state, federal government, and manufacturers to “step up and produce more,” said the mayor.

He cited the Defense Production Act (DPA), which was established in 1950 and is primarily used by the president to expedite and expand the supply of whatever materials are needed “to promote national defense” and is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as a way to start pressuring more companies to join in vaccine production. 

“The pharmaceutical companies, where are they?” asked de Blasio. “Except for the three that are now involved in vaccines, where are the rest of them? Why are they not stepping forward, offering their assembly lines?” 

He said the full use of DPA, among other things, would allow the federal government to let more companies cut through the red tape and lean towards public interest.

“We do not need business as usual in the pharmaceutical sector, which we all know has made its share of mistakes in the past. How about they actually step forward and do what’s in the common good and put people over profit,” said de Blasio.

Compounding the problem is a national weather advisory of snowstorms that is delaying future vaccine shipments, he added. New York City alone is set to be hit with yet another snowstorm of an estimated six to seven inches tomorrow morning, he said.

“I’ve been updated this morning on the fact that we unfortunately do expect vaccine delays, shipments we were expecting by yesterday and today. That means we’re going to have to hold back appointments New Yorkers need,” said de Blasio. 

The Mayor estimates 30,000 to 35,000 or more appointments might not be scheduled because there is dwindling supply and it hasn’t arrived on time. There have already been complaints from residents making vaccine appointments and being scheduled sometimes months away in April for a time slot.

De Blasio said that they have renovated the vaccine appointment website to be more efficient for scheduling. There’s a phone option for seniors, and the application has been “hand translated” into 10 different languages in response to feedback. And, all providers are invited to join in the appointment system to streamline scheduling to a central place. 

“The sign up process would go so much better if we had ample supply,” said de Blasio bitterly, “stating the obvious.”

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