Jen Psaki’s Snarky Comments Can’t Cover for the FDA’s Rapid Testing Approval Failures
During a testy exchange with reporters on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki accidentally admitted the real reason why America is lagging so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to COVID-19 rapid testing: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In response to a question posed by NPR’s Mara Liasson about why other countries seem to have more readily available, less expensive at-home COVID testing kits, Psaki rattled off her talking points about how the Biden administration has “quadrupled the size of our testing plan” and is working to ensure that many Americans can get refunded for out-of-pocket testing costs.
When Liasson continued pressing, Psaki turned to her usual snark to avoid offering a straight answer.
Jen Psaki somewhat mockingly asks reporter at the White House Daily Press Briefing if the US should be sending out rapid #COVID19 tests to every household.
— Matt Karolian (@mkarolian) December 6, 2021
That’s pretty rich coming from the same White House that was, just two months ago, touting its plan to spend $1 billion purchasing and distributing roughly 200 million at-home tests for free each month to health clinics and community centers. As Reason‘s Ron Bailey noted recently, that amounts to around 0.6 tests per American per month. Psaki is literally mocking the Biden administration’s own approach as woefully inadequate—which, to be fair, it is!
But here’s the real money shot, from the White House’s official transcript of the press conference:
Q: I don’t know. All I know is that other countries seem to be making them available for—in greater quantities, for less money.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we share the same objective, which is to make them less expensive and more accessible. Right?
Every country is going to do that differently. And I was just noting that, again, our tests go through the FDA approval process. That’s not the same process that — it doesn’t work that way in every single country. But what we’re working to do here is build on what we’ve done to date and continue to build out our testing capacity, because, Mara, we absolutely recognize that this is a key component of fighting the virus.
Exactly. It’s the FDA’s uniquely labyrinthine and time-consuming approval process that is causing America to lag behind so many other countries.
I’m all for more subsidized (or free) tests, but my understanding is that a big part of the US/Europe difference here is that their *unsubsidized* price is much lower because it’s a more competitive market which in turn makes it easier to subsidize the tests down to $0.
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) December 6, 2021
Indeed, as journalist Matthew Yglesias points out, there are American companies making tests for use overseas even though they have not been approved by the FDA for use in the United States. This is madness. If the FDA cannot accelerate its evaluations to match what’s being done in Germany, Britain, and elsewhere, it should at least offer an emergency use authorization so tests approved by public health officials in other countries can be legally sold here (albeit without the official seal of approval). President Joe Biden
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