White House Cabinet Room Washington D.C. March 2 3:20 P.M. EST
Well, thank you very much. Today, we are meeting with the pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies - the biggest in the world, most prestigious, the ones that get down to the bottom line very quickly - to discuss how the federal government can accelerate the development of vaccines and therapeutic treatments for the coronavirus.
We want to welcome Dr. Deborah Birx. And Dr. Birx has been to the White House a lot over her career, and she's now going to be here working with Mike Pence and everybody full time, and we appreciate it. We appreciate it very much, Dr. Birx. And a real expert in her field. And if you'd like, you can ask her a couple of questions when we're finished.
We work to - we're working very hard to expedite the longer process of developing a vaccine. We're also moving with maximum speed to develop therapies so that we can help people recover as quickly as possible. We have a lot of recovery going on. We want to see if we can advance that. It's likely that therapies will be available before a vaccine is actually ready, and we'll seek to bring all effective treatments to market as soon as possible.
Some very good work has been done on the vaccine, however, and they have some good progress. And you'll be able to ask a couple of questions of the folks here.
We're also working with Congress to ensure that America has what it needs to respond to this challenge - this great challenge. But everybody is responding very well.
Since the start of the outbreak, my administration has taken the most aggressive action in history to protect our citizens, including closing our borders very early - a lot earlier than people wanted us to do. And that turned out to be a good decision. I ordered sweeping travel restrictions, increased travel advisory levels, established screening measures, and imposed historic quarantines. We have quarantines all over the country - a lot of them.
The coronavirus shows the importance of bringing manufacturing back to America so that we are producing, at home, the medicines and equipment and everything else that we need to protect the public's health. And I've been talking about this for a long time. That process has already started. It started long before we ever knew about this.
We want to make certain things at home. We want to be doing our manufacturing at home. It's not only done in China; it's done in many other places, including Ireland, and a lot of places make our different drugs and things that we need so badly. And it's not good to be dealing with one or two or three countries. And we do very little at home, and we're going to start doing it at home, and we've been talking about that for a long time. And a lot of the drug companies, because of what we've done in terms of incentives and taxes, they're heading back here anyway.
The coronavirus shows the importance of bringing all of that manufacturing back to America, and we will have that started. It's already started, frankly. It started about a year ago.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, has been meeting daily and coordinating closely with the state and local governments. Mike had a call today with 53 governors, and I heard it was a very good call, and everybody is very well coordinated. And the governors and the states - all of them; I can't think of an exception - they've been really working closely with us. It's been - it's been a very good - a very good relationship.
We will confront this challenge together, and we will continue to do exactly what we're doing. And we're going to be very successful. A lot of things are happening. A lot of very exciting things are happening, and they're happening very rapidly.
So, with that, I'd like to introduce Mike. And you can say a little bit as to your calls and some of the things that are happening today.
THE VICE PRESIDENT:
Well, thank you, Mr. President. And the White House Corona Task Force will be meeting again this afternoon. But, as you mentioned earlier today, at your direction, we hosted a video and telephone conference call with 53 governors.
As the President said many times, we're all in this together. And today's meeting is a reflection of the fact that this President understands that industry is part of the one team in America that's going to address the coronavirus in this country. And I'm grateful for these leaders of the nation's top pharmaceutical companies to come in and speak to us about the development of vaccines but also the development of therapeutic medications that can be available in the short term. And we're grateful for your participation.
The President will also be traveling tomorrow to the National Institute of Health; the CDC, before the week is out. And we will be meeting with leaders of the airline industry. We'll be meeting with leaders of the cruise line industry. And we welcome the partnership with industry in this country as we work out the President's top priority, which is the health and safety and wellbeing of the American people.
Let me also, Mr. President, extend my welcome to Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the - one of the leading experts in infectious diseases in the world. She has served in the uniform of the United States. She has served in multiple administrations. And she's going to be our right arm here as we implement your vision for putting the health and safety and wellbeing of the American people first.
So, with that, Mr. President, I know Secretary Azar has a few thoughts, and I look forward to the meeting.
And, Alex, maybe you can give a little update and then we'll go around the room and people can introduce themselves if that's okay.
Absolutely. Thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President.
So, we continue to see cases here in the United States. As you know, we tragically have experienced several more deaths reported today. And our condolences go out to their families, of course. That's why the President is leading this whole-of-government response at the direction of the Vice President.
We're here working with the pharmaceutical company leaders on three key issues: how do we speed vaccines, how do we speed therapeutics, and what are the supply chain challenges that we may be facing for pharmaceutical products here in the United States.
With regard to therapeutics and vaccines, we want to know how we can not get in their way but rather speed that development process along. I want to make sure that they all know that we've got Commissioner Hahn from the FDA. And this is all in the context of emergency powers, emergency use authorizations.
And the President will be asking you: How can we make it faster? How can we make anything faster? How can we challenge some of those normal pharma timelines? It can be a little slow and bureaucratic. What can we do to speed that along, given the nature of this emergency and be a good partner with you in making that happen, especially once we get the emergency supplemental passed by Congress in the next week or so?
So, with that said, Mr. President, thank you very much.
And the supplemental is moving along very rapidly. Everyone wants to get that done. It's moving along quickly.
Emma Walmsley from GlaxoSmithKline. First of all, I'd like to really say how much we welcome the leadership, Mr. President, of this task force, the NIH, and BARDA, and recognize the very substantial efforts that have already been made by the administration to protect people here in the U.S.
As a science-led company with a very large, including manufacturing, presence here, we know we have a responsibility and a vital role to play. And our priority is to make sure we make available, as part of this one team, our pandemic adjuvant technology available to any company with a highly promising vaccine, because this new technology could make these other vaccines either bring more efficacy or, indeed, allow them to be antigen sparing, which means we could protect more people, which is obviously incredibly important as we're trying to work at pace and at scale.
We've already announced two collaborations and hope to announce more. We're also ready to produce, should the U.S. government require it, a stockpile of this adjuvant.
We know fighting COVID-19 requires a global effort, and the U.S. is the vital leader in this, and we're absolutely committed to play our part in the task force.
Thank you, Emma. Beautiful. Thank you very much.
Please. Anthony, go ahead. I'd like you to say something anyway. (Laughter.)
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