Taiwanese company Medigen has hired Jeff Ricchetti, the brother of President Biden’s senior adviser Steve Ricchetti, to help get his COVID-19 vaccine added to the list of vaccines that allow foreign citizens to enter the United States.
Medigen hired Ricchetti on December 14 to represent the company on “[i]problems with COVID-19 vaccines accepted for foreign travelers to the United States, ”according to a lobbying registration form.
As of November, the United States has required foreign visitors to test negative for the coronavirus and show full proof of vaccination with a vaccine approved by the FDA or the World Health Organization.
The WHO has not approved Medigen’s vaccine, but it has approved the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines produced by mainland China despite their relatively low efficacy against even the original strain of COVID-19.
Medigen’s vaccine received emergency clearance in Taiwan in July without Phase 3 clinical trials to assess its effectiveness in humans. At the time, the island was struggling to obtain vaccines from other companies.
Skepticism about the vaccine’s effectiveness has resulted in low demand in Taiwan. About 80% of the island’s residents are now vaccinated, with most receiving US-approved Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the WHO-approved AstraZeneca vaccine.
But nearly a million residents – including Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen – have received at least one injection of Medigen’s vaccine and therefore cannot enter the United States under current rules.
The government of Taiwan has started giving doses of Medigen to poorer countries due to weak domestic demand. The Taiwanese foreign ministry announced this week that it was sending 150,000 shots to Somaliland, a breakaway republic in East Africa.
The Omicron variant, which is causing a record number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, has sharply reduced the potency of vaccines to prevent infection. However, preliminary data indicates that vaccines still reduce the severity of the disease, and Pfizer and Moderna say that booster shots reduce the risk of infection.
The new lobbying gig comes on top of Jeff Ricchetti’s business boom in 2021, which has raised ethical concerns. His company Ricchetti Inc. raked in $ 2.4 million in lobbying fees in the first three quarters of 2021, but only earned $ 1.2 million in 2020 before Biden took office, according to Opensecrets.org.
Biden visited a General Motors electric vehicle plant last month after GM paid Ricchetti $ 160,000 to pressure the government on “[i]questions related to tax incentives for electric vehicles and charging stations ”and“[i]climate policy issues affecting the auto industry, ”according to disclosure forms.
Steve Ricchetti is an “adviser to the president” – an influential post held in previous administrations by Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon (Donald Trump), John Podesta (Barack Obama) and Paul Begala (Bill Clinton). He serves as a key liaison between the West Wing and Capitol Hill and is said to have been a key negotiator with centrist Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the sprawling $ 2,000 billion Build Back Better Act.
Manchin said earlier this month he would not support the measure. However, Biden said he is still trying to influence Manchin, whose position dictates the fate of the equally divided Senate package.
Biden’s social spending plan offered $ 12,500 in rebates to electric car buyers. Manchin clashed with the White House over details including whether discounts should be limited to unionized automakers like GM and whether high-income people should be eligible.
Other major clients of Jeff Ricchetti include Amazon, semiconductor maker Applied Materials Inc., and pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline, Evofem Biosciences, Neurocrine Biosciences, and Eagle Pharmaceuticals.
None of the Ricchetti brothers responded to The Post’s requests for comment.