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Statement: Biden’s Executive Orders on COVID-19 Vaccines Are a Good Step, But He Must Go Bigger

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Joe Biden is expected to sign executive orders today authorizing the use of the Defense Production Act to advance vaccine manufacturer access to raw materials and indicating support for the global COVID-19 response, including the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative. A Public Citizen report outlines how the Biden administration can make full use of its authority to ensure timely access to vaccines. Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, released the following statement:

“The president’s orders to use the Defense Production Act and commit to the World Health Organization are very positive demonstrations that this government will use its powers to help the country and the world through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But the president must go even bigger.

“The Defense Production Act can be used not only to secure vaccine ingredients and supplies by prioritizing contracts. It can be used to expand production capacity by enlisting new manufacturers. It can be used to retrofit factories and share know-how so that each vaccine benefits from the best available technology. It can also be used together with other laws to share vaccine technology with the world. That is how we beat the pandemic.

“There are not nearly enough vaccine doses to meet global needs. The result will be that, even as rich countries finally vaccinate their populations, the pandemic will continue to rage in developing countries for years.

“Biden should use his power under existing law to accelerate global vaccine manufacturing – including by sharing the vaccine recipe with qualified manufacturers around the world. If the U.S. leads the way to expand production, we can overcome scarcity, rationing and preventable death.”