President-elect Joe Biden plans to invoke the Defense Equipment Manufacturing Act to boost coronavirus vaccine production after taking office next month, a member of his Covid-19 advisory team said Monday.
“You will see how he invokes the Defense Production Act,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, member of Biden’s Covid-19 Advisory Board, during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”. “There it should be ensured that the personal protective equipment, the test capacity and the raw materials for the vaccines are produced in sufficient quantities.”
The War Manufacturing Act, which allows the president to force companies to prioritize manufacturing for national security, could help the U.S. secure components and specialty products that manufacturers need to make the Covid vaccines. Biden’s team has weighed whether the vaccine manufacturing bill should go into effect, NBC News reported last week.
The New York Times reported last week that Pfizer, which makes one of the two emergency-approved Covid vaccines in the US, asked the Trump administration in September to help the pharmaceutical giant get some supplies it needed for production, however, was disappointed with a lack of the answer.
White House officials did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
For weeks, the US has been negotiating with Pfizer about additional doses of the vaccine in addition to the original 100 million doses the US set. Last week Pfizer announced it had signed a contract to ship an additional 100 million cans to the US by July.
The Times reported, citing people familiar with the negotiations, that under the deal the US government had agreed to invoke the Defense Production Act to “give Pfizer better access to around nine specialty products that needed for the manufacture of the vaccine “.
Pfizer representatives did not immediately return CNBC’s request for comment.
Through Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government invested in the efforts of six companies to bring a Covid vaccine to market, but only two have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration: Pfizer’s and Moderna’s. A concern of Pfizer’s appeal to the Defense Manufacturing Act is that it gives preference to the manufacturer over others and provides Pfizer with unfair access to required vaccine components.
Gounder did not explain how or whether Biden intended to apply the law fairly. Her comments come as she and other Biden advisors question the vaccination schedule set by President Donald Trump and his health officials.
Less than 2 million people had received the vaccine as of Saturday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is well below the government’s previously set target of vaccinating 20 million people before the end of the month, despite Adm. Brett Giroir, deputy health minister, has stated that there are delays between states and the CDC data.
Trump coronavirus vaccine tsar Moncef Slaoui told reporters during a press conference Wednesday that the surge in vaccinations has been slower than expected.
“We are here to help states accelerate appropriately,” he said. The goal of 20 million vaccinations is “unlikely to be achieved”.