06.30.20

Senator Murray Calls For National Vaccines Plan From Trump Administration, Cautions Against Repeating Testing Mistakes

As COVID-19 deaths pass 126,000 and cases soar, Senator Murray presses health officials about Trump Administration’s response

 

Senator Murray: “I want to get to the point quickly and be blunt about it: the COVID-19 response in our country is still a disaster.”

 

Following mistakes, delays, and disparities with testing efforts, Murray urges Republicans to work with Democrats to require the Trump Administration to provide a comprehensive national plan for a safe, effective, widely available vaccine

 

Senator Murray:The ongoing struggle to get President Trump to take testing seriously should be a stark warning to Congress that when it comes to vaccines, we can’t just leave this Administration to its own devices—we have to hold it accountable.”

 

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S FULL OPENING REMARKS HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Committee, urged Republicans to work with Democrats to require the Trump Administration to provide a comprehensive national vaccines plan. In her remarks, Senator Murray criticized President Trump for his continued failure to lead on testing, even as COVID-19 deaths pass 126,000 and several states see record-setting increases.

 

“While this public health crisis rages across the country, we’ve also seen a leadership crisis raging in the White House, as the President proves time after time he cares less about how this pandemic is impacting families and communities, and more about how it makes him look,” said Senator Murray. “Just consider his appalling, continued, failure on testing. President Trump said ‘anyone that wants a test can get a test.’ They still can’t. He said testing was ‘overrated.’ It’s not. He said we ‘prevailed’ on testing. We haven’t. Now he’s saying we should be doing fewer tests and that testing makes us look bad. We clearly need to be doing more, and it clearly does not. The most honest thing he has said about testing is that he doesn’t ‘take responsibility at all’—and that’s exactly the problem.”


Senator Murray emphasized that following President Trump’s mistakes and delays on testing, it is imperative Congress take action to prevent similar problems from hindering the effort to make a safe, effective vaccine widely available. She further outlined what a comprehensive national plan must address, including: how to transparently ensure a vaccine is safe and effective; how to produce vaccines at scale and distribute them equitably nationwide; and how to address barriers like health disparities and vaccine hesitancy while ensuring that a vaccine is free for everyone.

 

The ongoing struggle to get President Trump to take testing seriously should be a stark warning to Congress that when it comes to vaccines, we can’t just leave this Administration to its own devices—we have to hold it accountable. We know this pandemic will not end until we have a vaccine that is safe and effective, that we can widely produce and equitably distribute, and that is free and accessible to everyone. Which is why we need a comprehensive national vaccine plan from the Trump Administration as soon as possible,” said Senator Murray. “Given the testing plan—which Congress only received after forcing the Administration’s hand—was too little, too late, we need to take the opportunity we have now to get a vaccine plan much earlier and avoid the missteps we’ve seen with testing. So I hope Republicans will work with me in a bipartisan way once again to require this Administration to put forward a plan.”

 

 

Watch video of Senator Murray’s remarks HERE.

Senator Murray’s full remarks are below.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, thank you to our witnesses for joining us once again, and of course to our staff for setting up the technology for us to hold this hearing safely.

 

“I want to get to the point quickly and be blunt about it: the COVID-19 response in our country is still a disaster. 

 

“126,000 lives lost was once considered an estimate on the high end of the spectrum—but with the year just halfway over, it’s now a grim reality.

 

“We’ve lost more Americans to COVID-19 than we lose to the flu each year, than we lost to the opioid crisis last year, and more lives than we’ve lost in every American war except the Civil War, and World War II.

 

“And despite what President Trump claims, this pandemic isn’t fading—far from it.

 

“Several states are seeing rapid, record-setting case increases, and the country just saw its largest single day increase to date.


“And while this public health crisis rages across the country, we’ve also seen a leadership crisis raging in the White House, as the President proves time after time he cares less about how this pandemic is impacting families and communities, and more about how it makes him look.

 

“Just consider his appalling, continued, failure on testing. President Trump said ‘anyone that wants a test can get a test.’ They still can’t. He said testing was ‘overrated.’ It’s not. He said we ‘prevailed’ on testing. We haven’t.

“Now he’s saying we should be doing fewer tests and that testing makes us look bad. We clearly need to be doing more, and it clearly does not.


“The most honest thing he has said about testing is that he doesn’t ‘take responsibility at all’—and that’s exactly the problem.


“It’s why Congress took bipartisan action in our last COVID-19 response bill to require the Trump Administration to submit a comprehensive, national testing plan.

 

“And it’s why I’m still pushing for this Administration to include more details in that plan, and take more steps to ramp up testing.

 

“Because we are still nowhere close to the testing and tracing capacity we need to safely reopen our country, and ending support for federal testing sites, while sitting on billions in testing funds Congress provided, is not going to get us there.

 

“The ongoing struggle to get President Trump to take testing seriously should be a stark warning to Congress that when it comes to vaccines, we can’t just leave this Administration to its own devices—we have to hold it accountable.

 

“We know this pandemic will not end until we have a vaccine that is safe and effective, that we can widely produce and equitably distribute, and that is free and accessible to everyone.

 

“Which is why we need a comprehensive national vaccine plan from the Trump Administration as soon as possible.

“Given the testing plan—which Congress only received after forcing the Administration’s hand—was too little, too late, we need to take the opportunity we have now to get a vaccine plan much earlier and avoid the missteps we’ve seen with testing.

 

“So I hope Republicans will work with me in a bipartisan way once again to require this Administration to put forward a plan.

 

“We need the Trump Administration to show us how they’ll ensure a vaccine is safe and effective.

 

“Because while I’m as eager for a vaccine as anyone, this isn’t just about doing things fast, it’s about doing them right.

 

“That’s why we need to know the process for developing a vaccine is rigorous, inclusive, transparent, and science-driven.

 

“But in light of the hydroxychloroquine debacle, and the removal of Dr. Bright from BARDA for questioning the Administration’s efforts to promote that unproven treatment, we can’t take for granted this process will be free of political influence. We have to demand serious oversight.

 

“In order to give the public full confidence that a vaccine is safe and effective, the Administration needs to commit now to being fully transparent about the standards a vaccine will be expected to meet, and releasing the clinical trial data that FDA uses to evaluate safety and effectiveness.

 

“We also need a plan detailing how to produce and distribute vaccines nationwide, and make sure everyone can actually get them.

 

“We saw with testing how avoidable bottlenecks create damaging delays when the federal government refuses to step in and lead like it needs to in times of crisis.

 

“And unfortunately, we saw how existing health disparities are exacerbated without a plan to overcome them—as even the incomplete data we currently have shows Black, Latino, and Tribal communities have significantly less access to testing than white communities.

 

“This is an injustice that we must not repeat when it comes to vaccines.

 

“We also need a plan to guarantee vaccines are free so that cost isn’t a barrier for patients—and it’s worth noting we still need to act to make COVID-19 treatment available at no cost too.

“And the plan must address barriers like vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, especially when one of the most prominent sources of misinformation so far has been the President of the United States.

 

“While the discovery of an eventual vaccine may still be far off—these are issues we need the Administration to answer now. 

 

“So I hope Republicans will work with me to require the Administration to submit a comprehensive vaccine plan, and to address the many other urgent issues stemming from this pandemic.

“Our businesses, workers, teachers, students, and families do not have what they need to safely return to work or school—period.  Our medical system, doctors, nurses, and frontline workers continue to face unimaginable risk, stress, and fatigue. They need Congress to step up to help them continue to save lives.

 

“And families need us to continue to ensure they have basic services and can keep food on their tables.   

 

“The House passed the HEROES Act 46 days ago to get more relief to frontline workers, families, and small businesses. It is well past time for Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans to sit down with my fellow Democrats and get to work too.

 

“There is no question our country is still in crisis—and every day the Senate fails to take action is a day we allow it to get worse.

 

“And I also hope we will be able to have another hearing on this crisis soon with Administration officials whose testimony is long overdue like Secretary Azar, Secretary DeVos, and Secretary Scalia.

 

“Thank you.” 

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