Biden will invoke wartime act to ramp up COVID vaccine production, adviser says

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​President-elect Joe Biden will invoke the 1950s-era Defense Production Act after he assumes office next month to ramp up production of coronavirus vaccines, a member of his COVID-19 pandemic advisory team said on Monday.

“You will see him invoking the Defense Production Act,” Dr. Celine Gounder told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “The idea there is to make sure the personal protective equipment, the test capacity and the raw materials for the vaccines are produced inadequate supply.”

Team Biden raised concerns that the rollout of the vaccinations was falling short of the levels the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed promised.

The federal government had vowed to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of the year.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as of Saturday, fewer than 2 million people had received the first dose of the two-dose inoculation.

The Defense Production Act was enacted during the Korean War and authorizes the president to force domestic industries to produce materials and goods necessary for national defense.

President Trump and his administration have turned to the Defense Production Act as recently as last week to ensure that Pfizer would be able to obtain enough of the specialized supplies it needs to meet its goal of manufacturing another 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine by July on top of the 100 million it has already promised in an earlier order.  

The White House reached a deal with the pharmaceutical company for the vaccines, and as part of it, the administration said it would invoke the act to give Pfizer access to the supplies it needs, the New York Times reported.

So far, Pfizer and Moderna are the only two companies producing the vaccines under the emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.

Earlier this month, when Pfizer was still awaiting FDA approval, Trump signed an executive order giving Americans “first priority” for US-made vaccines and pledged to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase the supply if needed.

In April, Trump invoked the wartime act to press 3M and other manufacturers to increase their production of N95 masks, ventilators and other protective equipment to allow them to overcome obstacles in the supply chain.

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