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Congresswoman urges Biden team to involve more distributors in COVID vaccine shipments

Jan 29 (Reuters) - A Democratic U.S. lawmaker urged the Biden administration to involve additional major healthcare distributors in the shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to speed vaccinations, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

The Trump administration signed an exclusive deal with healthcare distributor McKesson Corp to ship COVID-19 vaccines for the government. That distribution system has broadly worked, but it will face new demands as vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and other companies are expected to be added.

“Given the scale of vaccinations needed in response to this pandemic ... I encourage you to consider utilizing all distributors and the full infrastructure of our commercial pharmaceutical distribution network,” Representative Anna Eshoo wrote in the letter, which was dated Jan. 28 and addressed to Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

Eshoo is the chair of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health.

Reuters reported on Thursday that federal officials are talking to U.S. pharmaceutical distributors about increasing the number of companies shipping coronavirus vaccines, but have not yet made a final decision.

Eshoo cited a report by the Center for American Progress, a think-tank, that suggested enlisting all three of the largest U.S. healthcare distributors -- Cardinal Health Inc, McKesson Corp and AmerisourceBergen Corp -- in the COVID vaccine shipping efforts.

Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen have made proposals to the administration to take on some distribution, Reuters reported.

President Joe Biden has called the initial phase of the vaccination campaign a “dismal failure” and plans to expand and improve the program in a bid to make vaccines available to all Americans by mid-year. (Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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