White House still figuring out how to implement newly announced steps to ease infant formula shortage
Officials have cautioned that invoking the DPA isn’t a “magic wand” and won’t increase supply instantly. And officials had also debated internally about whether invoking it would move the needle significantly on production before eventually deciding to move forward.
On Thursday, a senior administration official said the administration remains in ongoing conversations with companies about the specific ways the DPA and the operation to import formula from abroad with federal resources will be used.
“We are still having active and ongoing conversations with the companies, so I have nothing more specific to report at this time about the specific instances in which we’re going to be using the (DPA) authority. What the authority does is empower the secretary of Health and Human Services to make these individual decisions on a case-by-case basis,” one official told reporters.
Asked about whether there is currently a tightness in the supply for ingredients to make formula, the official added that those conversations are ongoing. Pressed about this later in the call, this official noted that the DPA authority isn’t only about addressing potential ingredients shortages, but also about speeding up the supply chain.
“So that gives us the authority to work closer with the infant manufacturers and pull stuff through the supply chain faster,” they said.
An official on the call also told CNN that the federal government is still looking to identify a manufacturer that has available formula to import into the US through Operation Fly Formula, with one official saying that the administration remains in active “discussions with manufacturers about where there might be cargo around the world that would be suitable.”
“If we’re going to use DoD contracted commercial aircraft, we need to have a pickup place, a drop-off place, and the amount (of formula) and other specifics. So, it requires some negotiations, again, with the manufacturer of the formula,” another official said.
The Biden administration, they added, is working with the Defense Department to identify contracted commercial air. These aircraft are generally expected to “land at airfields that are close to the factory or a manufacturing facility.”
The Defense Department also relayed that the agency is in the very early stages of this process and has no flights to announce, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a briefing later Thursday. Transportation Command (Transcom) is working across federal agencies to find available formula and contract commercial air carries to import it.
“We all share the same sense of urgency,” Kirby added. “We will participate and cooperate to the best of our ability, but I just don’t have specific aircraft information to give you today.”
Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, told “CNN Newsroom” on Thursday that the administration in a “fast-moving process” to determine where the DPA will be used to get manufacturers at full production capacity.
“(A)s soon as we can responsibly explain where these instances will be in place, we will do so,” Deese added. “But rest assured there is an entire team that is engaged on an hour by hour basis to make sure that we are doing everything we can to facilitate this movement of goods from companies into the country.”
The moves came as the administration is feeling more pressure from Congress to deal with the shortage.
The House also passed another bill on Wednesday to help to address the baby formula shortage, but the fate of that legislation is more uncertain in the Senate. That bill would provide $28 million in emergency funding for the US Food and Drug Administration in an effort to help alleviate the current shortfall and head off future shortages.
Dr. Robert Califf, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, told a congressional panel on Thursday that the baby formula shortage should get better within days, but it will take a few weeks to get back to normal.
“It will gradually get better,” Califf said, when asked when parents will be able to find infant formula on the shelves. He added that the big problem there is now is distribution and that rural areas are facing the worst problems.
“Within days it will get better,” Califf said. “But it will be a few weeks before we’re back to normal.”
The Senate on Thursday approved a bill by unanimous consent intended to improve access to infant formula. The bill, called the Access to Baby Formula Act, was approved by the House on Wednesday and will now go to the President’s desk for his signature.
The measure is aimed at ensuring that families in need can continue to buy baby formula with their benefits from WIC — also known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — during a public health emergency or supply chain issues such as a product recall.
Wednesday’s announcement follows other steps the administration has taken over the last two weeks to address concerns about a months-long formula shortage, which has parents in different parts of the country scouring stores to feed their children.
Reckitt, which manufactures Enfamil brand formula, has been working to boost its domestic production — efforts that have been aided by the White House since Biden spoke with the leaders of Reckitt and Gerber, and retailers Target and Walmart, last week. Officials have been in “close communication” with the four major US manufacturers of infant formula — Reckitt, Abbott, Nestle/Gerber and Perrigo — as well as major retailers this week following the conversations with Biden.
CNN’s Oren Liebermann, Naomi Thomas, Kaitlan Collins, Clare Foran, Ali Zazlav, Daniella Diaz and Manu Raju contributed to this report.
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: Ipodifier