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December 28, 2020

Joe Biden plans to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine production by invoking Defense Production Act

U.S. not likely not meet its goal of 20 million vaccinations by end of December

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Biden COVID-19 vaccines Biden Campaign via CNP/Sipa USA

President-elect Joe Biden plans to invoke a law that will compel companies to prioritize vaccine supplies. The Trump administration has invoked the Defense Production Act 18 times in support of vaccine production, a representative says.

President-elect Joe Biden will invoke the Defense Production Act after taking office next month, a move that will compel companies to prioritize COVID-19 vaccine production for national security purposes, an advisor said Monday.  

Invoking the wartime production law will boost the manufacturing of vaccine components and products essential for vaccine production and administration.

"You will see him invoking the Defense Production Act," Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, said during an interview on CNBC's "SquawkBox." 

"The idea there is to make sure the personal protective equipment, the test capacity and the raw materials for the vaccines are produced in adequate supply."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized two COVID-19 vaccines earlier this month, kickstarting a vaccination campaign that is expected to last well into next year. 

Pfizer, one of the two companies that received an emergency use authorization, reportedly began asking the Trump administration for help getting supplies in September, according to the New York Times.

Last week, the U.S. government agreed to invoke the Defense Production Act to help Pfizer get better access to nine specialized products needed for vaccine production, the Times added.

The agreement was part of a deal to supply the U.S. with an additional 100 million doses. Pfizer now is expected to deliver 200 million doses by July. Both Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines require two doses. 

A Department of Health and Human Services representative told CNBC that the Trump administration has already invoked the wartime production law 18 times in support of vaccine production.

Still, invoking the law specifically for Pfizer may give the company an advantage in accessing vaccine components and supplies. The U.S. has invested in six companies efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Gounder didn't explain how Biden will ensure the law is carried out in an equitable fashion.

So far, less than 2 million people have received the vaccine, casting doubt that the goal of 20 million vaccinations by the end of the month will be met.

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