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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Ventilator Makers Ask U.S. Government To Manage Distribution

Photo caption:

Photo by Axel Heimken Pool/AFP via Getty Images

A ventilator is pictured during a training in Hamburg, Germany, on March 25. The medical devices can be life-saving for patients with severe COVID-19 cases, but there aren't enough to meet the expected need in the United States.

Medical device manufacturers are asking the Trump administration to step in and centralize the distribution of ventilators, life-saving devices that are in desperately short supply because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Advanced Medical Technology Association, an industry trade group, said its members would "appreciate the Administration's leadership" in prioritizing which orders from states, local governments and hospitals should be filled first.

"We believe the most effective way to address these allocation issues is for the Administration to designate a lead agency, such as FEMA, to oversee these allocation decisions with the active input of clinical experts," association President and CEO Scott Whitaker wrote in a letter.

Under the Defense Production Act, the White House has the authority to control the allocation of medical supplies, as well as order manufacturers to boost production. But President Trump has so far declined to actually use those powers to address the shortage of ventilators.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are already trying to rapidly increase the supply of the complex medical devices. Some companies have announced high-profile partnerships with major automakers to increase their production.

Zoll Medical, which makes ventilators for the Department of Defense, says it plans to increase production 25-fold, to some 10,000 ventilators per month.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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