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President Biden stated Friday that his administration had “moved as quickly as” the national baby formula shortage became apparent.
Biden’s remarks came after the White House outlined steps to ease the shortage.
The White House said states have been asked to boost the accessibility of baby formula for WIC recipients. The Food and Drug Administration announced they too are strategizing to make it easier to import baby formula, per NPR.
Biden defends Administration amid baby formula crisis.
“If we had been better mind readers, I guess we could’ve” done something about the shortage, Biden told reporters Friday afternoon.
“We moved as quickly as the problem became apparent to us,” he said. “We have to move with caution as well as speed, because we got to make sure what we’re getting is in fact first-rate product, that’s why the FDA has to go through the process.”
How did we get here?
The shortage follows Abbott’s voluntary recall of some powdered baby formulas in February after four infants were hospitalized with bacterial infections.
Abbott holds an expanse of contracts in the WIC program with “states, territories and tribes” that make up nearly half of all infants on the program, according to a letter from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to Abbott CEO Robert Ford.
In the letter dated Friday, Vilsack urged Abbott to take further action to support WIC recipients, per NPR.
What is being done to address the formula shortage?
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Abbott had committed to providing states with rebates through the end of August, which will allow states to buy supply ahead of time from a variety of manufacturers, rather than just the ones with which they have contracts.
“This means that families on WIC can purchase any available product in the months to come through August and states and retailers can plan ahead,” Psaki said.
Vilsack also sent a letter to states Friday afternoon, urging the adoption of all flexibilities in the WIC program, Psaki said.
This week, the U.S. House will consider a bill to grant “emergency authority to the WIC program to address supply chain disruptions and recalls,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday in a message to lawmakers. That will let the government “relax certain non-safety-related regulations,” she said.
Pelosi also announced plans to consider an emergency appropriation “to immediately address the infant formula shortage.”
Beyond the WIC program, Psaki said, President Biden has spoken to formula retailers and manufacturers to understand how they can increase availability.
Also on Friday, Dr. Robert Califf, the Food and Drug Administration’s commissioner, said the agency is working to bring “as much infant formula to US shelves as quickly as possible.”
He called it a “top priority” in a tweet on Friday.