U.S. to Fund Additional 1 Billion Covid Vaccine Doses a Year
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s administration is offering drug manufacturers, including Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., funding to expand domestic production capacity of mRNA vaccines by one billion doses a year by the second half of 2022.
The plan, announced by the White House on Wednesday, is aimed at increasing availability of Covid-19 vaccines and also building capacity to address any future pandemic.
“We hope companies step up and act quickly to take us up on this opportunity,” Jeff Zients, who serves as Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said Wednesday at a press briefing.
The move could result in expanded production of vaccines in the U.S. Countries, companies and global health agencies continue to grapple with how to balance production increases, intellectual property rights and vaccine disparities, with low-income countries still unable to secure enough doses to widely vaccinate their populations.
“This program would also help us produce doses within six to nine months of identification of a future pathogen and ensure enough vaccines for all Americans,” Zients said.
While mRNA vaccines have proven to be the most effective in preventing Covid symptoms and deaths, their manufacturers have been criticized for not making the shots available more widely.
Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE have produced 2.6 billion doses globally so far, with plans to make 4 billion globally in 2022, though it’s not clear how many would be made within the U.S.
Moderna has produced 345 million doses in the U.S. since its vaccine was cleared by regulators, and another 196 million doses abroad, the company said in a Nov. 16 fact sheet. Like Pfizer, Moderna is planning to increase global production next year.
The U.S. funding -- if the companies show interest -- could either add to planned production totals or steer them to U.S. soil, or both. Biden has pledged donations of more than one billion doses over the next year, but wealthy countries face calls to do more to address inequities in vaccine availability. The U.S. has taken delivery of about 500 million doses domestically so far.
The government funding could be used for a wide range of purposes, including setting up factories and staff training, one official said. At this stage, the administration is seeking to gauge interest from pharmaceutical companies, and no deal has yet been finalized.
The U.S. is seeking brief descriptions of proposed projects from companies, with a deadline of Dec. 13. The move was reported earlier by The New York Times.
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