“This formula delivery serves an essential medical purpose and will help infants with specific dietary needs requiring specialized formula,” Vilsack tweeted. At the airport, he told reporters that the formula “would take care of 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers for a week”.
An additional 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula will ship “in the coming days,” the White House announced earlier this weekend. Combined, the shipments are enough to fill approximately 1.5 million eight-ounce bottles.
I’m in Indianapolis, where the first shipment of infant formula brought into the United States as part of Operation Fly Formula arrived this morning. This shipment of infant formula serves an essential medical purpose and will help infants with specific dietary needs requiring specialized formula. pic.twitter.com/BIrTfSo0X5
— Secretary Tom Vilsack (@SecVilsack) May 22, 2022
Imports will fill in the immediate gaps while buying domestic manufacturers time to ramp up production. The military’s involvement in transporting formula milk reflects the urgency of the shortage, which particularly hits medically vulnerable babies and some older children who may depend on formula milk due to life-threatening food allergies.
The formula shortfall comes amid global supply chain disruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic. But the shortage worsened when Abbott Laboratories recalled products made at a factory in Sturgis, Michigan, after a health alert when four infants fell ill, two of whom later died. The plant was later closed, but the Food and Drug Administration has since reached an agreement with Abbott to reopen the facility.
The Secretary of Defense approved military aircraft for the mission on Friday evening, shortening a process that would typically take two weeks to about three days, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on board. of Air Force One as President Biden headed for Japan on Sunday morning. .
“It’s a testament to the president’s commitment to pull every lever to get more infant formula to market,” she said. “And Operation Fly Formula is a tool we use to do that.”
Jean-Pierre added that the formula was made in an FDA-approved facility and that the White House is working with the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to ensure the formula “goes to those who need it most.”
Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday he was “so encouraged” by what US troops were able to do in two days.
“A C-17 that could fly howitzers into Germany in support of Ukraine turns around and flies 71,000 pounds of baby formula,” Mullen said on ABC News’ This Week.
The formula will be tested by the FDA before distribution, he added.
“Hopefully the FDA tests don’t take too long and we get them out there as quickly as possible,” Mullen said.
My friends, I’m thrilled to report that Operation Fly Formula’s first flight is loaded with over 70,000 pounds of formula and is about to land in Indiana.
Our team works around the clock to provide a safe formula to anyone who needs it. pic.twitter.com/cX4KU0eDtZ
— President Biden (@POTUS) May 22, 2022
Abbott is one of the big four companies responsible for approximately 90% of the infant formula supply in the United States. It is also a major provider of WIC: a food assistance program for women and babies. Caregivers are typically limited to one brand of formula with WIC vouchers, but the House and Senate recently passed legislation allowing participants to purchase any brand available.
The infant formula bill was flown to Seoul for Biden to sign during a trip to Asia that began on Friday, according to a White House official.
Indiana is one of the few states that does not have WIC contracts with Abbott. It has already enabled mothers receiving WIC assistance to purchase other brands.
Carolyn Y. Johnson and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.