The Biden administration is offering drugmakers billions to increase COVID-19 vaccine production capacity.

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The Biden administration is offering drug companies billions of dollars to increase COVID-19 vaccine capacity.

Associated Press writer ZEKE MILLER

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is putting billions of dollars into expanding domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines, with the goal of producing an additional 1 billion shots per year to share with the rest of the world.

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking bids from pharmaceutical companies that have demonstrated the ability to manufacture more effective mRNA vaccines.

The two US-approved mRNA shots are manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.

The Biden administration believes that increasing the capacity of COVID-19 vaccines will help alleviate a global shortage of doses, especially in low- and middle-income countries, preventing preventable death and limiting the spread of potentially new, more dangerous virus variants.

“The goal of this program is to increase current capacity by a billion doses per year, with production beginning in the second half of 2022,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients.

The initiative comes as the Biden White House faces mounting domestic and international pressure over global vaccine inequity, as the US moves toward approving booster shots for all adults while vulnerable people in poorer countries wait for their first dose of protection.

There are no firm agreements with Moderna or Pfizer to take up the US on the investment yet, but the Biden administration hopes that enhanced manufacturing capacity will be available by mid-2022, allowing more COVID-19 doses to be shared overseas and preparing for the next public health emergency.

“Costs associated with infrastructure (facilitiesequipment), bolstering trained staff, and long-term sustainment (‘readiness’) for COVID-19 vaccine, or variants of concern, and emerging infectious diseasepandemic response at no less than 100 million doses per month over and above current US-based capacity,” according to the solicitation.

Biden’s plan to invest in vaccine manufacturing capacity was welcomed by Oxfam America’s senior advocacy manager, Robbie Silverman, but he said it wasn’t nearly enough.

“What the world really needs is vaccine manufacturing capacity distributed across multiple regions, and it’s…

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