By ZEKE MILLER
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is making billions of dollars available to drugmakers 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 world.
Under the new initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is soliciting pharmaceutical companies that have demonstrated the ability to make the more-effective mRNA vaccines to bid for government investment in scaling up their manufacturing abilities. Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna produce the two U.S.-approved mRNA shots.
The Biden administration believes the boosted capacity of COVID-19 shots will help ease a global shortage of doses, particularly in lower- and middle-income nations, stopping preventable death and limiting the development of potentially new, more dangerous variants of the virus.
The initiative comes as the Biden White House has faced growing pressure at home and abroad over inequity in the global vaccine supply — as the U.S. moves toward approving booster shots for all adults while vulnerable people in poorer nations wait for their first dose of protection.
There are no firm agreements yet with Moderna or Pfizer to take up the U.S. on the investment, but the Biden administration hopes that the enhanced manufacturing capacity, through support for the company’s facilities, equipment, staff or training, will be available by mid-2022 to allow more COVID-19 doses to be shared overseas as well as to prepare for the next public health emergency.
The announcement was previewed Wednesday by an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter before the official release. The New York Times first reported on the new initiative.
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