As the White House’s free at-home COVID-19 test kits are reaching millions of American households’ mailboxes, the “made in China” label on some of those kits are stirring concerns.
The distribution, which began earlier this month, is part of a Biden administration initiative to give away 1 billion self-test kits to Americans for free. A sizable portion of these kits will be sourced from iHealth Labs, a California subsidiary of Chinese medical gear manufacturer Andon Health.
Since December, the company has won contracts worth over $2.1 billion with the U.S. federal government and some states, according to Andon’s filings and federal contract records.
Roughly $1.8 billion of the amount came from the Department of Defense (DOD) for the White House rollout. The department awarded two contracts to the lab on Jan. 13 and Jan. 26 respectively, which would bring over 354 million Chinese-made kits—or about a third of the total—to American homes.
The White House said on Friday that 60 million U.S. households have ordered the free test kits through the government’s new website, covidtests.gov. The order typically ships within 7 to 12 days, according to the website.
The U.S. reliance on China for producing these test kits—two years after COVID-19 spread out from the country—is a call for reckoning, said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.).
“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,” he told The Epoch Times.
U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities came into the spotlight during the early months of the pandemic, when America’s frontline responders struggled for critical medical supplies and had to turn to foreign countries, principally China, for the gear.
Wittman called for the administration and the members of Congress to lead by example to advocate for the medical equipment to be made at home.
“We should be supporting hardworking Americans and businesses, not relying on unfriendly regimes,” he said.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) held a similar view.
“The fact that the United States is mass distributing Chinese-manufactured COVID-19 tests further highlights the need to bring back U.S. manufacturing for critical industries,” he told The Epoch Times, describing it as a “national security issue as well as a national health security issue.”
The DOD contract didn’t specify iHealth Labs’ China connection, nor was the relationship mentioned on iHealth Labs’ website.
The White House did not respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment. The Epoch Times has also reached out to Andon and iHealth Labs for comment.
Established in 1995 in China’s megacity Tianjin, Andon had been known as a producer of blood pressure monitors. The company was losing money for seven consecutive years until the pandemic hit.
Andon only began making the self-test kits on a commercial scale in November. Driven by its U.S. success, Andon’s stock has soared nearly 14-fold as of Jan. 18.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Andon’s iHealth Labs emergency approval in November to sell its COVID-19 nasal swab test kits in the United States. The lab has also received orders with a combined total of $333 million from the New York State Department of Health and Massachusetts.
California, Washington, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, and the District of Columbia have also placed orders, according to Chinese media reports.
Chinese authorities had previously lauded Andon for its role in the country’s pandemic control efforts. In 2020, Andon supplied body temperature scanners to Wuhan and other virus-hit cities, and donated shipments to countries such as the United States, Italy, and Germany.
In a May 10, 2020, post, marking the fourth “China Brand Day,” Andon tapped into nationalist sentiment, saying the company had been an “ambassador for Chinese brands” to bring a “high standard” of Chinese products to the world.
Republican members of Congress have recently expressed disagreement over the government purchase of Chinese-sourced medical gear.
Earlier this month, more than 120 Republican lawmakers voiced complaints about having to wear “made in China” masks. In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they expressed their “disbelief and outrage” that taxpayer dollars are being used on Chinese-made masks when American alternatives are available.
“China is perhaps the United States’ greatest geopolitical adversary, and its government is culpable in the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not a day goes by without new information showing the scale of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to hide and cover up the outbreak,” the lawmakers said in the letter. With the regime’s pandemic cover-up, suppression of whistleblowers, and continued efforts to obfuscate virus origin tracing efforts, “it is inexcusable for taxpayer dollars to be spent in support of the Chinese economy,” they said.
News about the Chinese mask was nonetheless capitalized on by some Chinese state media.
An unsigned article titled “Chinese test kit, mask manufacturers still relied on to fill US supply gaps,” published on state-owned Global Times, said it was a “striking sign of the prevalent use of China-made facial masks in the US.”
Chinese-made masks have “played an essential role in supplying Americans,” it said.
From The Epoch Times