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Krishnamoorthi, Merkley, Warren, And Jayapal Introduce The NOVID Act To Protect The U.S. From Risk Of New Coronavirus Strains By Defeating The Virus Abroad

June 8, 2021
Press Release
The bill would dramatically expand U.S. anti-COVID aid to end outbreaks and prevent new strains through vaccinating 60% of the population of the most vulnerable countries

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) were joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and  Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) in introducing the bicameral Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate  (NOVID) Act to dramatically expand the nation’s international coronavirus prevention and vaccination efforts to reduce the risk of more dangerous, new COVID-19 strains and additional domestic outbreaks. Even as global COVID-19 infection and fatality rates decline, more than 300,000 new people test positive each day. In a recent survey by Oxfam, 88% of epidemiologists believed that persistent low vaccine coverage in many countries would make it more likely for vaccine-resistant mutations to emerge from the ongoing caseload, and 66% said that within a year the virus would mutate to the extent that the majority of first-generation vaccines would become ineffective.

Following in the footsteps of the Lend-Lease Act in the Second World War, the NOVID Act would immediately help save lives in those nations still hardest-hit by the virus by reducing the potential emergence of dangerous new strains through helping to inoculate at least 60% of the populations of the 92 low- and middle-income countries eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX). The NOVID Act would establish the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Program (PanPReP) to immediately coordinate U.S. efforts and investments in increasing the production, procurement, and end-to-end distribution of vaccines in COVAX nations to end the pandemic and reduce the threat of new variants to the United States and the world. PanPReP would            be modeled after the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has helped save 20 million lives since 2003.

“Despite the progress we’ve made here at home, the coronavirus continues to devastate other parts of the world, and these outbreaks represent a threat to Americans with an increased risk of double and triple mutation variants which the vaccines we have today may not be able to stop,” said Congressman Krishnamoorthi. “That’s why I’m proud to join with my colleagues in introducing this legislation to protect our country from new variants by helping our partners abroad vaccinate their populations, end their outbreaks, and prevent new variants from emerging within their borders or reaching ours. So long as COVID-19 continues to thrive anywhere, it’s a threat to everyone everywhere, and that means we need the global response the NOVID Act would provide.”

“The coronavirus crisis is a global emergency that can’t be tackled in one country alone. That’s why it’s critically important that we remember that while life is feeling more and more normal in America, this pandemic is still causing unfathomable destruction in communities around the world,” said Senator Merkley. “Helping the world drastically increase vaccine manufacturing and access is not only the right thing to do, but it will help keep Americans safer, by decreasing the risk of dangerous, vaccine-resistant variants emerging and coming to our shores. This is a crucial opportunity for us to show American leadership is back, at a time when the world needs that leadership most."

“COVID-19 is a humanitarian crisis that impacts all of us, and we need all hands on deck to bring an end to this pandemic,” said Senator Warren. “That’s why my colleagues and I are introducing this critical legislation in the Senate to expand global access to lifesaving vaccines and establish essential global health security programs to protect us against future pandemics.”

"A global pandemic is not over until it is over everywhere," said Congresswoman Jayapal. "It is not only our moral responsibility to quickly and equitably unleash the resources necessary to defeat this deadly virus abroad, but doing so will also keep us safe at home while reducing the risk of dangerous new variants. At the heart of the NOVID Act is a powerful recognition that whether you live in America or around the world, your future is intertwined with mine — that we’re all better off when we’re all better off."

“While much remains to be done, in the United States, thanks to widespread availability of vaccines, we are beginning to emerge from more than a year of hardship and suffering,” said Peter Maybarduk, Director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program. “But in many countries in the global South – in South America, in Asia, in Africa – the virus spreads unabated, and access to vaccines is only a distant hope. The NOVID Act would dramatically accelerate global access to vaccines to bring a rapid end to the pandemic, saving millions of lives and trillions of dollars and restoring the standing of the United States around the world. Public Citizen applauds Reps. Krishnamoorthi and Jayapal, Sens. Merkley and Warren, and other cosponsors for their vision and leadership.”

The NOVID Act would establish the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Program (PanPReP), which will have oversight and responsibility for the U.S. Government global health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. PanPReP would coordinate efforts between the Department of State, USAID, CDC, FDA, BARDA, Health Resources and Services Administration, DOD, the Peace Corps, and the Department of Labor. The Program would also be responsible for coordinating the U.S. Government response with international non-governmental organizations, development banks and civil society as well as foreign governments. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the Program will shift to protect against future pandemics by coordinating a global disease surveillance network to identify and stop pandemic-potential pathogens before they spread uncontrollably.

The PanPRep would develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide through establishing specific, achievable goals, and focus on three primary issues:

  1. Working with manufacturers to rapidly scale up the production of vaccines and vaccine components around the world to ensure there is an adequate supply of vaccines for all nations.
  2. Working with our international partners to purchase enough vaccines for low- and middle-income countries to immunize at least 60% of their populations.
  3. Supporting end-to-end delivery and administration of vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. In this respect, the Program should be modelled off of the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has for almost two decades set the global standard for targeted bilateral public health interventions.

The bill would authorize spending for $34 billion: $25 billion to cover the cost of scaling manufacturing capacity and producing 8 billion vaccine doses; $8.5 billion to cover the cost of end-to-end delivery of enough vaccines to immunize 60% of the populations in the 92 COVAX countries; and $500 million to establish a global disease surveillance network to protect against future pandemics. We anticipate our international partners would contribute to cover additional costs, including health care workers’ salaries and medical treatment for COVID-19 patients.

In addition to the bill’s co-leads, the House version of the NOVID Act’s original cosponsors include Representatives Ro Khanna, Steve Cohen, Donald M. Payne, Jr, Raul M. Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Andre Carson, and Deborah Ross.

Organizations endorsing the legislation include: Public Citizen, Oxfam America, The Access Challenge, Advocacy Network for Africa, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Friends Service Committee, American Jewish World Service, American Medical Women's Association, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, Chicago Medical Society, Doctors for America, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative North America, HelpAge USA, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief USA, Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Partners in Health, Physicians for Human Rights, PrEP4All, R2H Action [Right to Health], The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society, and US Impact.

The text of the bill is available here.