by zeke miller
WASHINGTON (AP) – Under pressure to address inequality in global COVID-19 vaccines, the Biden administration on Wednesday took steps to provide drugmakers with billions of dollars to share with the world and prepare for the next pandemic.
Under the new initiative, the government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is soliciting pharmaceutical companies with a proven ability to make a more effective mRNA vaccine in a bid to spur US investment in increasing their manufacturing. Pfizer and Moderna produce two US-approved mRNA shots.
The White House expects the move to build capacity to produce an additional 1 billion shots per year.
The move comes as the Biden White House faces mounting pressure at home and abroad over a disparity in global vaccine supplies – as the US moves to approve booster shots for all adults, while poor countries are vulnerable People wait for their first dose of protection.
According to an analysis by One Campaign, an international aid and advocacy organization, only 4.7% of people living in low-income countries have received the first dose. Rich countries gave more than 173 million booster shots, while low-income countries gave about 32 million first shots.
The Biden administration believes the increased capacity for COVID-19 shots will help ease global shortages of doses, especially in low- and middle-income countries, to prevent preventable deaths and help prevent further spread of the virus. In limiting the development of potentially new, more dangerous forms.
“The goal of this program is to increase existing capacity to an additional billion doses per year, with production starting in the second half of 2022,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Gents.
On Wednesday, Giants announced that the US has now donated 250 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines globally – the most of any country – with a goal of sharing more than 1.1 billion shots by the end of 2022.
There is no concrete agreement yet with Moderna or Pfizer to take the US on the investment, but the Biden administration expects increased manufacturing capacity through the support of the company’s facilities, equipment, staff or training by mid-2022. will allow more. Sharing the dose of COVID-19 overseas helps prepare for the next public health emergency as well.
The administration is prioritizing mRNA vaccines, which have been shown to be more effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, than the Johnson & Johnson viral vector vaccine, which uses a harmless virus that stimulates the immune system. Uses genetic material to Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are made with a piece of genetic code called messenger RNA that tells the body to make harmless copies of the spike protein, so it is trained to recognize the virus.
Oxfam America’s senior advocacy manager Robbie Silverman welcomed Biden’s plan to invest in vaccine manufacturing capacity, but said it was nowhere near enough.
“The world really needs to deliver regional manufacturing capacity of vaccines, and it seems that this investment is focused on building US capacity,” he said. “We desperately need companies that have a monopoly on COVID vaccines to move their technology, and we need the US government to use that leverage.”
Silverman estimated that without companies transferring their knowledge of how to make COVID-19 vaccines, it would take manufacturers twice the time needed to make doses elsewhere, noting that there are billions of vaccines against other diseases in developing countries. are made regularly.
Silverman said that while the US should have negotiated more provisions about vaccine equity, while it was securing its supplies, it was not too late to act. He said the US should support the proposed exemptions drawn up by India and South Africa at the WTO, which called for the suspension of patents on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. And he said the US could invoke the Defense Production Act to target material critical for COVID-19 shots.
“The US government has a lot of tools to push pharmaceutical companies forward,” he said, noting that it had invested billions of dollars in making Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. “America needs to make sure that these companies, which they fund, are prioritizing public health rather than profit.”
Ava Elkon, a senior policy and research officer at Doctors Without Borders, said the billions of doses produced by US investments are still far from the figure needed to immunize the world. The World Health Organization has estimated that 11 billion doses are needed.
Alcon said that since any manufacturer that does a new draft into making COVID-19 doses will not be able to produce any supplies for several months, a more immediate solution is needed. “We believe the US can already deliver many more doses,” she said, calling on the US to be more transparent about how many additional doses it has. She said some estimates suggest the US could have at least 500 million surplus vaccines by the end of the year.
In a statement, Moderna said it has not yet reviewed the Biden administration’s proposal, but it looks forward to discussing it with the administration “and understanding whether there is a role we can play in addressing pandemic preparedness.” can play a role in supporting the efforts of the Government to Pfizer declined comment.
The New York Times first reported the new initiative.
AP writers Maria Cheng in London and Lauren Niergaard in Washington contributed.