WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 (Reuters) – The United States plans to invest billions of dollars in expanding production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines and making an additional billion doses available each year, the COVID-19 agency said. White House Coordinator, Jeff Zients, Wednesday.
Activists have pressured President Joe Biden’s administration to increase the supply of vaccines to poorer countries.
Zients said the government was preparing to provide substantial assistance to the makers of the mRNA vaccines to expand infrastructure and capacity, including facilities, equipment, personnel or training.
Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are the sole makers of mRNA vaccines, although Zients said subcontractors from those companies would also be included.
Production will start in the second half of 2022, he said.
The investment in vaccine production is part of a private-public partnership to address vaccine needs at home and around the world and to prepare for future pandemics, he said. It will be paid for with funds from the US bailout that Biden signed in March.
In the short term, the program would make a significant number of COVID-19 vaccine doses available at cost for worldwide use. In the long run, it would help establish a sustainable domestic manufacturing capacity to rapidly produce vaccines for future threats, Zients said.
Zients said 80% of Americans ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, marking a milestone in efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
He also said 2.6 million children aged 5-11 will have received their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of Wednesday.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Alexandra Alper, additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio
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