The White House has begun distributing free COVID-19 rapid tests to its citizens, with millions of American households standing to benefit from the program. However, some have raised concerns over the “Made in China” labels on the testing kits.
President Joe Biden’s program aims to distribute one billion self-test kits to Americans at no charge. iHealth Labs, a unit of the Chinese company Andon Health Co. Ltd., has signed a $1.28 billion deal to supply COVID-19 testing kits as part of the program.
“Andon Health’s unit iHealth Labs Inc has agreed to provide at-home coronavirus antigen test kits that can serve 250 million people … The U.S. Army Contracting Command signed the contract on behalf of the country’s Department of Health and Human Services,” according to Reuters.
iHealth has also received a $120 million contract from the New York State Department of Health for supplying self-test kits. In December, the company received $65.3 million dollars worth of orders from the government department. Between Dec. 3 and Jan. 5, iHealth also inked deals worth $148.3 million from the Executive Office of Health and Human Affairs and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Since last December, the company has won $2.1 billion worth of contracts for self-test kits from the federal government, $1.8 billion of which is accounted for by the defense department.
Two contracts were signed by the defense department with IHealth on Jan. 13 and 26 for 354 million self-test kits. This would make it roughly a third of the one billion kits Biden has promised to deliver for free. As of Jan. 28, around 60 million American homes have ordered the free kits.
The reliance on a Chinese-backed firm for meeting America’s COVID-19 testing needs has sparked controversy. In Arizona’s Pinal County, Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland found it “astounding” and “unbelievable” that the U.S. government is sending China-made test kits to its citizens. In an email, McFarland called for an investigation into the origin of the kits and to determine why they weren’t manufactured in the United States.
Brian Kellar, the CEO of Banner Casa Grande Medical Center, admitted that he too was surprised by the Chinese origin of the COVID-19 test kits. However, Kellar pointed out that China has become a leader in the manufacturing of such kits.
“Would American manufacturing be able to keep up with the demand for billions of tests? When despite subsidies we haven’t been able to do it for N95 masks? It seems to make sense the international manufacturing would be necessary… Lord knows if China has established anything over the last 40 years, it is that they produce things very fast and cheap,” Kellar said in a reply to McFarland’s email.
Speaking with The Epoch Times, Republican Representative Rob Wittman called on Congress and the Biden administration to push for domestic manufacturing of medical equipment.
“If we should have learned anything from this pandemic—it is that it’s imperative to break U.S. dependence on Chinese medical and PPE [personal protective equipment] supply chains… We should be supporting hardworking Americans and businesses, not relying on unfriendly regimes,” Witman said.
Republican Representative Brad Wenstrup from Ohio called the China reliance a “national security issue as well as a national health security issue.”