U.S. at Risk of Being 'Largely Reliant' on China for Syringes and Other Critical Supplies, Senators Warn

The United States has more than doubled its reliance on imported needles and syringes from China and other countries in the last six years, putting Americans at risk, despite President Joe Biden recently touting efforts to manufacture goods in America.

According to Sens. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), in 2018, the U.S. imported only 15 percent of the 10 million needles and syringes used every day in America. However, that percentage is now 40 percent, the senators said in a recent op-ed.

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Not only is that putting Americans’ lives at risk from faulty Chinese needles and syringes, but it has caused the shutdown of four out of six manufacturing sites in the U.S., the senators said.

Ricketts and Blumenthal wrote Wednesday in the RealClearPolitics op-ed:

As we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on health care products produced outside the United States carries significant risks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently investigating reports of faulty syringes made in China. Leaking or broken syringes have serious medical consequences, such as delivering the wrong dose of a medication—a potentially fatal mistake.

The senators noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, American businesses and manufacturers ramped up production of “everything from respirators to hand sanitizers,” and urged for that to continue.

Ricketts and Blumenthal added:

Without a resilient domestic supply chain for medical supplies, we risk our nation’s crisis response, and the health of our citizens. The most effective way to ensure the quality of these products is to manufacture them in the U.S. If we don’t change course soon, we risk losing the last of our syringe manufacturing facilities, which would make the United States largely reliant on China — a mistake we can’t afford to make.

It is not just needles and syringes that are being imported in greater amounts from China in recent years — it is also other critical supplies such as rubber medical gloves.

Scott Maier, the CEO of Blue Star NBR, an American manufacturer, told SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Saturday in a recent exclusive interview, “What’s happened is China has gone from about 14 percent of our supply to about 44 percent at the end of last year. And you know, on their current trajectory, they’ll have about two-thirds by the end of this year.”

He said under the Trump administration, the government awarded him a contract to build a plant to manufacture the synthetic rubber for the gloves, as well as encouraged him to build an adjacent factory to actually manufacture the gloves.

A worker checks the quality of medical gloves at a factory on June 28, 2021, in Tangshan, Hebei Province of China. (Photo by Zhang Yongxin/VCG via Getty Images)

However, due to inflation and the rising costs of energy and building materials, Maier and others who won contracts need more money to finish the projects. He said his rubber factory completed construction last spring, but that he needs more funds to hook it up to utilities and build the glove factory, but that the Biden administration has refused to finish it, instead awarding a new contract to a different company that is farther back in construction.

His factory, in rural southwest Virginia, would have covered 17 percent of the U.S.’s needs of 120 billion rubber gloves per year, needed for everything from doctors’ visits to food preparation. However, in the fall, he had to mothball the state-of-the-art rubber factory.

“We’re just one example,” Maier said. “Just with nitrile gloves, there’s another six companies that are in the same boat that are 80 percent complete, but aren’t producing anything and, you know, that was close to $700 million of investment.”

“If you look at the $17 billion that went out, there’s got to be probably 50 or 60 other companies that have these facilities that are probably 80, 90 percent complete but actually aren’t producing anything,” he added. “And again we need to make the critical items that we need here in the U.S. or at least have a portion so we never have a situation where we can’t get these critical items.”

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington. (Shawn Thew/Pool via AP)

Despite allowing China to gain a greater share of the market in the U.S. on these critical medical supplies, Biden claimed during his State of the Union speech on Thursday:

And now instead of importing foreign products and exporting American jobs, we’re exporting American products and creating American jobs — right here in America where they belong! … Buy American has been the law of the land since the 1930s. Past administrations including my predecessor failed to Buy American.

Not anymore. On my watch, federal projects like helping to build American roads, bridges, and highways will be made with American products built by American workers creating good-paying American jobs!

Maier told Breitbart News, “I’ll welcome anyone that wants to come see all the hard work that’s been put into this, to see a state-of-the-art facility that’s sitting basically mothballed that can produce a critical item that this country desperately needs. But instead, we’re just more dependent on China than we were before the pandemic started.”

Meanwhile, Ricketts and Blumenthal are calling on the Biden administration to do more to regulate foreign manufacturers.

The senators called on the FDA to inspect foreign manufacturing facilities more regularly and enforce its existing rules. They said the last time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected a Chinese hypodermic device manufacturing facility was in 2018. They noted that the FDA recently issued an advisory on potential syringe failures, but warned more must be done to protect Americans.

They also called on the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) to support the domestic supply chain by investing in the U.S. manufacturing of critical health care products, and explore ways to support the market for these products by stockpiling, through both vendor-managed inventory strategies and bulk purchases.

They also called on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to investigate actions by Brazil, India, and China to enact tariffs and protect their own manufacturing, and then determine the best actions to level the playing field for American manufacturers.

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