US President Joe Biden has announced plans to invest billions of dollars in domestic manufacturing of messenger RNA vaccines to increase supply for lower-income countries.
The new funding is intended to produce one billion doses annually by helping pharma Pfizer and Moderna boost their capacity through new plants, equipment, and staffers.
The announcement came on Wednesday ahead of a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing where administration officials spoke about the US role in global vaccine equity.
Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, criticized Moderna’s lack of participation in global vaccine efforts to date, along with the firm’s reluctance to give credit and shared patent rights to government scientists who helped with vaccine development.
In a meeting with the Moderna’s board chair and senior management, the Biden’s administration through David Kessler, the White House’s chief science officer for the COVID-19 response, has asked the drug maker to provide doses to the African Union in the short term and to fill the supply gap with international vaccine initiative COVAX at not-for-profit prices, which could happen in the coming weeks.
Further, the Mr Kessler has asked Moderna to commit to building manufacturing capacity in Africa in 2022 and ramp up production to meet existing needs.
“Moderna has the ability to supply the United States and COVAX, in our judgment, with doses that are needed,” Kessler said at the hearing. “We hope that they use it.”
Statistics show that vaccine manufacturing capacity is still insufficient to inoculate 70 per cent of the world’s population against the coronavirus by 2022, a key target highlighted by the Biden administration at a COVID-19 summit in September.