Biden Falls Short on Pledge for U.S. to Be the World’s Vaccine ‘Arsenal,’ Experts Say

Some manufacturers are falling behind. Novavax had production problems. Johnson & Johnson, which originally planned one billion doses this year, made just over 103 million, Krellenstein said, citing data from the scientific intelligence company Airfinity. That’s partly because its contract manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions ruined up to 15 million cans, causing the Food and Drug Administration to close its Baltimore facility for three months.

If 12 billion cans were actually produced and fairly distributed by the end of the year, the world’s needs could be met. But, wrote the Duke Institute, “those are both big ifs.”

Several other countries, as well as the United States, are already recommending booster vaccinations, which limit the availability. And the virus is changing shape so quickly – the highly contagious Delta variant is now prevalent around the world – that the vaccines developed last year could soon be out of date, said Dr. Richard Hatchett, the executive director of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which helps direct the Covax international vaccination campaign.

In the short term, poor nations need cans, and Mr Biden is right when he says the United States donated more than any other country. The United States has already donated 115 million excess cans from the country’s own supplies and purchased 500 million cans from Pfizer and BioNTech for sale through Covax. With the United States planning to booster injections, an official said there is currently no surplus.

Updated

Aug. 24, 2021, 4:52 p.m. ET

“Your financial contributions are enormous – no other country has pledged as much as the US,” said Dr. Hatchett. But, he added, “that doesn’t mean they can’t and shouldn’t do more.”

Dr. Hatchett said he would like a more nuanced discussion of the logistics of not only making vaccines for poor and middle-income countries, but also administering them. The New York Times recently reported that Covax is struggling to get these shots into people’s arms. Unused cans lie fallow on the tarmacs of airports in poor countries that lack the money and capacity to buy fuel, transport cans to clinics, train people to inject – and convince people to use them gain weight.

Mr Biden took his first steps to address the vaccine shortage in March when the White House announced the Merck deal and a partnership with Japan, India and Australia to expand manufacturing capacity. This included a commitment to help Indian manufacturer Biological E produce one billion cans by the end of 2022.

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