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Statement: White House Plan To Ramp Up Vaccine Production at Last Can Save Lives; Yet More is Needed

WASHINGTON, D.C.  The New York Times reported today that the U.S. government plans to invest several billion dollars to produce one billion doses of mRNA vaccine per year. Public Citizen long has called for a $25 billion investment to make eight billion doses of mRNA in one year, enough to meet global need. Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicine’s program, issued the following statement:

“Billions of people worldwide awaiting a safe path out of the pandemic may have more cause for hope this morning, with White House plans to help expand mRNA vaccine manufacturing to fight the global pandemic at last.

“We are heartened, even as we sorely wish the U.S. government had taken far more ambitious and transformative steps six months ago, one year ago, eighteen months ago. Nonetheless, a major investment to boost mRNA production can help save many lives, and potentially even shorten the pandemic.

“Critical questions remain. Who will control this added capacity? Will it amount to another subsidy to Moderna and Pfizer, or be controlled by, or at least accountable to, the public, including through use of the Defense Production Act?

“Vaccine scarcity has cost millions of lives so far. Poor people have received poorer vaccines, when they receive vaccines at all, leading to more breakthrough infections and death. The mRNA vaccines are the world’s most effective, yet have been largely unavailable in developing countries. We hope today’s announcement contributes to changing this intolerable vaccine inequity, late next year.

“It is unfortunate that the administration has chosen not to incorporate more significant plans for technology transfer and empowering vaccine production by developing countries. Sharing doses is charity, and desperately needed. But sharing knowledge is justice.

“This sharpens the task ahead: in parallel with a U.S. manufacturing program, we hope the administration will work closely with WHO to share know-how with global partners, including the South Africa-Afrigen mRNA technology transfer hub, which will make mRNA knowledge available to manufacturers worldwide.

“Credit is due to many access to medicines advocates throughout the world who have pressed the U.S. government since the beginning of the pandemic to step up manufacturing investments, meet global need and end vaccine apartheid.”