The Biden administration is providing drugmakers with billions of dollars to scale up domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines in the hopes of building capacity to produce an additional 1 billion shots per year to share with the rest of the world.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the Department of Health and Human Services is soliciting bids from pharmaceutical companies that have demonstrated the ability to manufacture more-effective mRNA vaccines under the new initiative. The two US-approved mRNA shots are manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.
The Biden administration believes that increasing the capacity of COVID-19 shots will help alleviate a global shortage of doses, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, thereby preventing preventable deaths and limiting the development of potentially new, more dangerous virus variants.
The initiative comes as the Biden White House faces growing domestic and international pressure over inequity in global vaccine supply — as the US moves toward approving booster shots for all adults while vulnerable people in poorer countries wait for their first dose of protection.
There are no firm agreements in place with Moderna or Pfizer to take up the US on the investment, but the Biden administration hopes that the enhanced manufacturing capacity, whether through support for the company’s facilities, equipment, staff, or training, will be available by mid-2022, allowing more COVID-19 doses to be shared overseas and preparing for the next public health emergency.
An administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter prior to the official release previewed the announcement on Wednesday. The New York Times broke the news of the new initiative first.