INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) – A 35-ton shipment of infant formula arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday on a US military plane from Germany to address a nationwide shortage.
The prescription formula will be distributed to areas of the country where the need is greatest, a Biden administration official told CNN. But the official said none of the first shipments would land on store shelves in the United States, adding that Sunday’s shipment is hypoallergenic and will be given to babies with cow’s milk protein intolerance.
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The shipment included 132 pallets of formula, which arrived on a C-17 cargo plane. The formula originated in Zurich, Switzerland, and was trucked to Germany, where it was loaded onto the C-17 and flown to the United States.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who welcomed the delivery’s arrival in Indianapolis, said Sunday’s shipment would provide enough formula for 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers for a week. The White House said the shipment was equivalent to 1.5 million eight-ounce bottle doses.
“This is a large shipment of very specific and specialized formulas. Formula for moms and dads who have kids with allergies where regular formula just won’t work,” the secretary said at a news conference in Indianapolis shortly after the shipment arrived.
The Biden administration official told CNN earlier that the product in the first shipment will be distributed to hospitals, doctors, home care facilities and pharmacies in areas “where the need is greatest.” .
The plane was carrying pallets of the Nestlé Health Science formula, including Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior. At the arrival site in Indianapolis on Sunday, a Nestlé spokesperson said: “Some cases are ready for distribution in the coming days. Others will be released into the supply chain once quality testing is complete. standards completed.
Frustration for American families
The shipment comes as formula shortages have caused major disruption and frustration for some desperate American families. Already, some families have begun rationing their formula supply, while others have turned to hospitals when they cannot find the kind they need.
And in a clear sign of the crisis’ profound effects, a doctor at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, said last week he had admitted two young patients – a toddler and a toddler. preschoolers – because the specialty formula they need is out of stock and they couldn’t tolerate any replacements.
According to a spokesperson for MUSC, clinical dietitians at Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston reported that at least four babies had recently been hospitalized with complications related to the shortage of infant formula.
The spokesperson said three of the four babies were hospitalized due to an intolerance to formula which parents had to try due to shortages, while one was sickened by mineral imbalances from the caregivers mixing their own infant formula.
On Sunday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency over the national shortage of infant formula supplies.
A statement from his office said the move would “empower the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) to prevent price gouging for the formula.”
Retailers nationwide are struggling to keep shelves stocked as supply chain issues persist, slowing both production and distribution of goods.
According to market research firm IRI, store infant formula inventories in mid-January were down 17% from mid-February 2020, just before the pandemic hit US shores.
The closure of the country’s largest formula plant in February exacerbated pandemic-related supply chain issues and deepened shortages nationwide.
The stock-out rate for infant formula hovered between 2% and 8% in the first half of 2021, but began to rise sharply last July. Between November 2021 and early April 2022, the stock-out rate jumped to 31%, according to data from Datasembly. That rate rose another 9 percentage points in just three weeks in April, and now stands at 40%, according to statistics.
The infant formula shortage has thrust the White House into crisis mode and opened a new political wound ahead of an already difficult midterm election season, frustrating the West Wing and the rest of the administration as they battle how little control they have over a situation that is centered on the United States Food and Drug Administration, an independent agency that the White House does not control or receive direct reports from.
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Officials faced criticism that the FDA moved too slowly to address the warning signs. At the same time, they tried to find out if the formula makers were really short of ingredients, while trying to fight against possible price increases.
Vilsack said Sunday in Indianapolis that the federal government is working with infant formula suppliers in the United States to increase production and address the nationwide shortage.
He said the government is working to help bring Abbott’s facility in Michigan into operation, with help from the Defense Production Act. Infant formula maker Abbott Nutrition is the company at the heart of a nationwide formula recall.
The agriculture secretary also said a deal with the FDA would allow Abbott’s plant and others to “get a head start on the supplies needed and needed to produce the formula.”
More flights expected
Earlier on Sunday, President Joe Biden touted the first flight of his administration’s infant formula airlift operation on Twitter.
“My friends, I am thrilled to report that the first flight of Operation Fly Formula is loaded with over 70,000 pounds of formula and is about to land in Indiana. Our team is working 24 hours a day to provide safe formula to all who need it,” Biden said on Twitter.
National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told CNN’s Dana Bash on ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday that as part of the airlift operation, more flights with formula “will arrive at the start of this week.”
“We’re going to keep increasing that until we get there,” Deese said.
Pressed by Bash on how the United States has found itself in a position where infant formula must be flown into the country, Deese partly blamed market consolidation.
“It comes down to this question of how can we bring more competition into our economy, get more suppliers to have this formula so that no single company has as much control over the supply chains,” he said. he declared.
The Biden administration official told CNN earlier that the product came from a factory that has already been approved by the US FDA – meaning US inspectors would only have to perform ‘spot checks’ Sunday after the product arrives. These checks include ensuring that the product has not been damaged during transport and that it bears appropriate labelling. An FDA inspector was on hand to perform the spot check. In addition, Nestlé will also carry out its own quality control at its local distribution site.
“This cargo is basically going to get off this cargo plane, and then the Federal Express people are going to take it from there, they’re going to deliver it to a distribution center that the Nestlé Gerber people have here in Indiana, and then it’s going to go on trucks and it’s going to be delivered to hospitals and home care clinics across the country, offering support and help,” Vilsack said Sunday.
Additionally, the Biden administration is engaged in conversations with makers of other European infant formula to approve and obtain surplus supplies for distribution in the United States, the administration official told CNN.
Indianapolis was chosen as the destination for the formula because Nestlé’s distribution site is located there. The official added that the administration is plugging into the existing distribution chain.
“We’re turning a two-week process into 72 hours,” the manager said.
This story and title have been updated for additional developments.
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