U.S. to expand vaccine production by 1 billion doses

Two workers wearing hard hats and face masks holding boxes near freezer reading minus 69 degrees Celsius (© Morry Gash/AP Images)
The temperature on a freezer reads minus 69 degrees Celsius as workers move boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Michigan in 2020. (© Morry Gash/AP Images)

The Biden-Harris administration is working to ramp up global COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing by 1 billion doses a year to share with the world.

“We’re taking another major step to bolster vaccine manufacturing both for this pandemic and to prepare for any future threats,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients said November 17.

The administration is reaching out to companies that already have experience manufacturing messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. Rather than use a weakened form of the virus, mRNA vaccines use a virus’ genetic code to trigger an immune response. Though mRNA vaccines are newly available to the public, scientists have studied the technology for decades. The mRNA vaccines have proven 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 in clinical testing.

The White House said the goal is for this additional COVID-19 vaccine production to start in the second half of 2022. The U.S. also is working to expand vaccine manufacturing in South Africa, Senegal and India.

Vaccinating the world

President Biden already pledged to give, not sell, 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to low-and middle-income nations. On November 17, the U.S. donated its 250 millionth dose, reaching more than 110 countries.

The U.S. has delivered more doses “than every other country in the world combined, and millions more doses shipped each and every week,” Zients said at the briefing.

Preparing for the next outbreak

The White House emphasized that building more manufacturing facilities will help the world prepare for future pandemics.

Once the manufacturing capability is up and running, the White House says the aim is to provide vaccines against new viruses in six to nine months.

“The goal is to guarantee capacity to produce approximately 100 million mRNA vaccines a month against covid or other pandemic viruses upon demand for the United States or global use,” David Kessler, the administration’s chief science officer, told the Washington Post about the mRNA plan. This will be a “historic partnership” he said.