Statement from the American Society for Microbiology
in response to the GAO Report
“COVID-19: Critical Vaccine Distribution, Supply Chain, Program Integrity and Other Challenges Require Focused Federal Attention”
While the rollout of vaccines is an essential part of the COVID-19 response, new, comprehensive testing approaches are still needed to get the pandemic under control in the weeks and months ahead.
“Many of the persistent testing challenges the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and its members have seen over the last year still remain, and left unaddressed will continue to hinder our efforts to maximize vaccine distribution, restart the economy, and begin getting back to everyday life,” said Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO, ASM.
Specifically, ASM concurs with recommendations made in the most recent bimonthly report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that include a call for a national, comprehensive and publicly-available testing strategy, and a warning about continued critical gaps in the medical supply chain.
ASM has been tracking shortages in our member laboratories and can contribute data to inform a more comprehensive strategy. The Clinical Microbiology Supply Shortage Collection (CMSSC) tool provides real time, geographically diverse information demonstrating that many labs lack the supplies necessary to maximize their testing capacity. Our data also illustrates that the supply chain issues that have plagued COVID-19 testing are affecting other routine microbial tests for a wide range of infectious diseases. For example, recent CMSSC data indicates 47.5% of labs surveyed have a shortage of supplies for detection of routine bacteria (including the bacteria causing strep throat, pneumonia, bronchitis and urinary tract infections.)
In addition to ramping up production of these critical supplies, the federal government needs to be transparent about the state of testing supply distribution, something that has been lacking since the beginning of the pandemic. Without line of sight to the entire testing ecosystem, we will not be able to effectively manage supplies and ensure that laboratories have certainty for planning purposes.
“ASM and its members stand ready to be part of this effort and can contribute important data such as we have been collecting through the CMSSC tool,” said Bertuzzi.
The Biden Administration’s efforts to develop a national strategy for testing and vaccines addresses a need that is long overdue, but it needs Congressional support to accomplish this monumental task. ASM thanks the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health for addressing these issues in their hearing on Wed, Feb. 3.