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US: Amid vaccine hoarding criticism, Biden admin plots $2.7 billion manufacturing push

2021/09/08  FiercePharma

It didn’t take long for the Biden administration to answer criticism that the United States wasn’t doing enough to ease the world’s COVID-19 vaccination shortfall.

On Thursday, White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients revealed that the government has earmarked $2.7 billion to beef up vaccine manufacturing.

Zients did not discuss details of the plan—such as which companies would receive the aid—but he did say that the funds will boost production of key supplies to produce the shots. Some of those materials include bioreactor bags, tubing, lipids, vials, needles and syringes, Bloomberg and The New York Times report, citing officials familiar with the plan.

“This new investment will further expand domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity, helping the U.S. deliver on its commitment to be the arsenal of vaccines for the world and preparing America for future vaccination efforts,” Zients told reporters.

Investing in the supply chain will also “create thousands of good paying American jobs,” Zients added. The Department of Health and Human Services is close to finalizing contracts for the work, a White House official told The New York Times.

The news comes about a week after nonprofit PrEP4All issued a report titled “Playing Fiddle While the World Burns,” which revealed that only $145 million of the $16 billion set aside by the U.S. government to bolster COVID vaccine production had been spent. The report called production capacity for vaccines “woefully insufficient” to meet the world’s demand.

The criticism intensified as the administration recommended a September rollout for booster doses, joining several other developed countries that have done the same. The World Health Organization’s call for a moratorium on booster shots to increase supply to needy countries has largely been ignored.

The U.S. has donated 130 million vaccine doses to other nations, Zients said. Biden has pledged to donate more than 600 million doses by mid-2022. Experts say 11 billion doses are needed to tame the virus worldwide.

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