White House planning to ramp up vaccine production to 1 billion doses a year
The Biden administration plans to invest substantial resources into helping vaccine manufacturers expand capacity to produce an additional 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines per year, administration officials said Wednesday.
The plan, which was first reported by The New York Times, is part of the administration’s effort to boost vaccines available for the global population. The administration has been under pressure to do more to help vaccinate the world’s population, particularly lower-income countries, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
One official said that the administration would offer resources to vaccine manufacturers experienced in producing mRNA vaccines so that they can expand domestic facilities and equipment and hire and train more staff with the goal of producing an additional 1 billion doses of vaccine annually by the second half of 2022.
“In the short term, this would make a significant amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses available at cost for global use, and in the long term, it would help establish sustained domestic manufacturing capacity to rapidly produce vaccines for future threats,” the administration official said. “We hope companies will take us up on this plan to help get more people here at home and around the world vaccinated.”
Speaking at a briefing with reporters later Wednesday, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients described the plan as a “major step” to bolster coronavirus vaccine manufacturing and prepare for future pandemics.
“The goal of this program is to expand existing capacity by an additional billion doses per year with production starting by the second half of 2022,” Zients said. “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.”
Administration officials told the Times that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority would seek input from companies experienced in manufacturing mRNA vaccines within the next 30 days to determine how best to increase manufacturing.
The plan appears to be in its early phases, and David Kessler, the chief science officer for the White House COVID-19 response team, estimated it would cost “several billion” in an interview with the Times. The funding would come from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that President Biden signed into law in March.
Biden has pledged to donate more than 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to other countries in order to vaccinate the global population as the international community struggles to overcome the pandemic.
Zients said at the COVID-19 briefing that the administration has now shipped 250 million doses to 110 countries as of Wednesday.
At the same time, the administration has also withstood scrutiny for authorizing booster shots for some Americans who have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called COVID-19 booster shots a “scandal that must stop now” as poor, at-risk communities in other countries wait for initial doses.
— Updated at 11:30 a.m.