Editorials, Opinion

Ask Biden to turn Mylan into vaccine hub

There’s a lot that came out of the Legislature this session that we aren’t thrilled about, but we can definitely get behind HR 24.

This resolution passed the House of Delegates and the Senate, and urges the governor to “form a task force with our congressional representatives, labor organizations, and other industry leaders to call upon the President of the United States to invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950, to order the Morgantown plant at the Chestnut Ridge facility of the former Mylan Pharmaceuticals to be retrofitted and placed into production for manufacturing, packaging, and shipping of critical, life-saving medical supplies, including vaccines, medications, and personal protective equipment.”

The Defense Production Act gives the president the authority to “enter into contracts and to require the prioritized fulfillment of those contracts over all others. The laws also include the power to allocate materials and facilities for their fulfillment,” according to LawFare. So under the DPA, President Biden could choose Morgantown’s Mylan plant to be one such facility.

The news of the Mylan plant closure, scheduled for this July, devastated the Morgantown community. There’s nothing wrong with the facility — the new parent company merely decided it wanted to pocket more money by sending manufacturing overseas. Given that the plant is already designed to make medication, it could most easily be assigned to make the medicines used to treat COVID-19 or any of the symptoms and side-effects associated with the disease. Mylan could also be retrofitted to create personal protective equipment or even vaccines. Especially vaccines, given the great and continued demand for them. We already have the trained and experienced workers to staff the plant and the infrastructure to support its use.

It’ll be government dollars flowing into Mylan this time, and while there is growing concern about government spending,  an investment in American industry is always worthwhile — and it pays dividends.

Even though the U.S. has administered almost 200 million doses, other countries are fighting to get their hands on COVID vaccines, especially in South America and Africa. If America — indeed, if West Virginia — can become a vaccine-making powerhouse, then we could begin to export vaccines to the countries that  still need them. This becomes a win-win: Countries in need of vaccines can get them (because COVID won’t be conquered until the majority of the world is inoculated) and the U.S. can get an economic boost. And if Mylan becomes one of those vaccine-production hubs, West Virginia could see a much-needed economic windfall.

Gov. Justice said at his inauguration that President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris would always be welcome in West Virginia. Maybe he should extend an invitation to them and other labor and industry leaders to take a tour of the Mylan plant, so they can see what a worthwhile investment it would be.

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