December 4, 2022


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Biden seeks to give vaccine effort a shot in the arm

President Biden will harness the Defense Production Act to speed production of COVID-19 vaccines, his administration announced Friday, and the Pentagon is expected to deploy more than 1,000 active-duty troops to staff community inoculation sites, starting in California.

Invoking the Defense Production Act is intended to ensure Pfizer can obtain the filling pumps and filtration units needed to manufacture its vaccine and meet its production target.

Pfizer and Moderna, which have won approval to produce vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration, are each slated to deliver 100 million doses by the end of March. The Biden administration said they expect 600 million total doses will have been produced by summer’s end. Johnson & Johnson is soon expected to win approval to begin distributing its vaccine.

“I would love to tell you we were sitting on stockpiles of vaccines that we found when we got here, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” said Andy Slavitt, a senior advisor to Biden’s task force on COVID-19. “What we’ve done is we have been distributing vaccines as quickly as possible.”

The Pentagon deployment to vaccine centers was first reported by the Associated Press. The Biden administration earlier this week announced it would set up two vaccination sites in California, including one at Cal State Los Angeles, as part of a nationwide effort to increase the number of places where people can receive shots.

Biden’s efforts to boost vaccine producers represents his first use of the Defense Production Act, which helps the federal government procure materials critical to national security.

Tim Manning, who is coordinating supply chain issues for the Biden administration, said the act was also being used to speed the production of at-home COVID-19 tests, an important screening tool to track infections and help people feel more confident about returning to work. He said six companies would produce a total of 61 million tests by the end of the summer.

“We’ll help industry partners construct new plants and build new production lines here in the United States,” he said.

More work was being done to boost the domestic production of surgical gloves, reducing the country’s reliance on overseas manufacturing. Manning said he could not yet disclose which companies were involved because the contracts have not been finalized.