McCaul, Texas colleagues call on Biden to form vaccine partnerships with U.S. institutions

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) this week led a bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers in urging President Joe Biden to forge specific partnerships that could more quickly distribute COVID-19 vaccines globally, bolster vaccine diplomacy and help end the ongoing pandemic.

“We write to bring your attention to a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine and their ongoing efforts to provide low-cost, effective COVID-19 vaccines around the world,” the members wrote in a Feb. 1 letter sent to Biden. “We urge your administration to consider efforts to partner with and leverage efforts such as this, capitalizing on the generosity and ingenuity of a U.S. institution as an extension of U.S. vaccine diplomacy and global efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Among the 13 other lawmakers who joined Rep. McCaul in signing the letter were U.S. Reps. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Joaquin Castro (D-TX), who pointed out that the Texas vaccine was developed and funded through private contributions that allowed co-directors at the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital to develop a protein sub-unit COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Because of the vaccine’s traditional protein-based technology, it is a proven, low-cost, scalable COVID-19 vaccine option available for non-exclusive licenses for countries and manufacturing partners,” wrote Rep. McCaul and his colleagues.

In fact, the Drugs Controller General of India in December 2021 granted Emergency Use Authorization approval to the CORBEVAX vaccine, they wrote, noting that vaccine manufacturing of approximately 1.2 billion doses can begin immediately now that pharmaceutical company Biological E Limited has received financing from the U.S. Development Finance Corporation and all necessary licensing.

Texas Children’s Hospital also announced vaccine licensing and manufacturing agreements with companies in Botswana, Indonesia, and Bangladesh and started conversations to do the same with Taiwan and Vietnam.

“The global supply is woefully insufficient to meet urgent and pressing demands,” Rep. McCaul and the members wrote. “Our partners and allies are forced to utilize ineffective and substandard vaccines from China and Russia, adversaries seeking to leverage this pandemic for economic and political gain. 

“We urge your administration to expand efforts to ensure our partners and allies have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, especially through partnerships with U.S. institutions already pioneering important work to end this devastating pandemic,” they wrote