By Mike Hellgren
March 8, 2021
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The White House abruptly cancelled President Joe Biden’s first visit to Baltimore since taking office.
Mr. Biden was scheduled to travel to Baltimore City on Wednesday to meet with executives from Merck and Johnson & Johnson and tour Emergent BioSolutions’ facility where much of the nation’s Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is made.
The White House announced the trip on Friday. By Monday morning, they had officially moved the event to D.C.
“We just felt [The White House] was a more appropriate place to have the meeting, but he will look forward to discussing with them ways to work forward to continue to expedite a vaccine supply and distribution to the American people,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
On Saturday, The New York Times published an article that was critical of Emergent. It claimed the company used its influence with the federal government to advocate for hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on products like anthrax vaccine, leaving the National Strategic Stockpile with fewer resources to fight other threats like pandemics.
“I will say first that the administration is going to undertake a comprehensive review and audit of the national stockpile, and obviously some of that was covered in the story I believe you’re referencing. But our health and our COVID team has not conveyed to me any concern about the timeline or pace of vaccine production,” Psaki said at Monday’s press briefing.
In a statement to WJZ, Emergent called the NYT article “misleading”:
“Emergent feels strongly the U.S. government should fully fund preparedness for a wide range of threats, including pandemics and bioterrorism, and that choosing one over the other, or to partially fund everything at a low level, leaves the American public dangerously exposed. Emergent is one of the very few companies that has invested in pandemic preparedness and bioterrorism, and the country has been better prepared to respond to COVID-19 because of it, leading to our ability to rapidly ramp up the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, of which we are now capable of making more than one billion doses annually. We won’t let this misleading article distract us from the incredibly important work Emergent employees are doing around the clock to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines and bring this public health crisis to an end.”
In a separate statement, the company said the Biden administration is always welcome to visit their facilities.
“The Administration is always welcome to visit our facilities. We applaud the work of the White House coronavirus task force to forge partnerships and expedite the vaccine production process. We remain focused on working around the clock to do our part in manufacturing the vaccines needed to beat this pandemic.”
Emergent has been praised by Governor Larry Hogan and other officials for its work manufacturing the vaccine critical to ending the pandemic.
The governor toured the facility himself and met with staff last month