March 03, 2020

Reps. Jeffries, Cárdenas, King and Herrera Beutler Lead Bipartisan Effort to Expedite Coronavirus Vaccine

Washington, D.C. -- On Friday, U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29),  Rep. Peter King (R-NY-02) and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03) introduced H.R. 6019, the bipartisan “Cure the Coronavirus Act,” legislation to encourage the rapid innovation and approval of a treatment to prevent or cure the Coronavirus Disease 2019. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Coronavirus Disease 2019 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  There are over 89,000 confirmed cases of infection and over 3,000 deaths worldwide.  As of this morning, there are more than 100 confirmed cases and six deaths in the U.S., including cases in New York, California and Washington.  On Friday, February 28, the WHO increased its coronavirus risk assessment to “very high.”

“The Coronavirus is now an international public health crisis,” said Representative Jeffries.  “Congress must do the most we can to reduce the regulatory hurdles for discovering and launching a new drug or vaccine that can treat the Coronavirus Disease 2019 before more lives are lost.”

“We need to take immediate and decisive action to combat the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus.  Thousands have died and we are now seeing dozens of cases across the United States including in my home state of California.  While Congress appropriates funds to address this epidemic, we must also do what we can to remove unnecessary red tape and reduce bureaucratic walls that will delay research into drugs that may save lives,” said Representative Cárdenas.

“When an international outbreak occurs it is imperative that the FDA is able to test and approve possible life saving vaccines as quickly as possible. Too many lives are at risk for bureaucratic red tape,” said Representative King.

“My home state of Washington has recently seen an outbreak of the novel coronavirus that’s resulted in six confirmed deaths so far, which is why we must act quickly to stop the spread of the virus and pursue a cure.  I’m proud to join my colleagues in offering this bipartisan bill that prioritizes the review of newly developed treatment for COVID-19; if bureaucratic red tape gets in the way of viable treatments, we’re unnecessarily putting lives at risk.  We will be infinitely more effective in containing and preventing the spread of the coronavirus in this nation if we work in a cooperative, bipartisan fashion and focus on solutions,” said Representative Herrera Beutler.

To date, there are no vaccinations or drug products to treat the Coronavirus.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) operates a tropical disease priority review voucher program that awards vouchers for expedited review of drugs that treat or prevent certain threatening infectious diseases.  The current list of tropical diseases for which a voucher can be attained includes the Zika virus, Ebola, tuberculosis and malaria.

The Cure the Coronavirus Act would add the Coronavirus Disease 2019 to the list of tropical diseases eligible for receiving expedited review.  The U.S. is respected for being a global leader in biomedical research and innovation and is often looked toward to find cures and treatments to end global public health emergencies.  A genetic study of the virus indicated that it may have been spreading undetected for more than six weeks in Washington state, making the rapid development of a vaccine and treatment of paramount importance.