Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Healthcare worker Daisie Esseie receives a Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine from nurse practitioner Hari Leon Joseph at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida on December 18, 2020.

Healthcare worker Daisie Esseie receives a Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine from nurse practitioner Hari Leon Joseph at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida on December 18, 2020. (Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

'We Need a Global Solution': Critics Say Biden Plan to Boost Vaccine Supply Not Nearly Enough

"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, 18 months ago."

Andrea Germanos

Vaccine equity advocates said the White House's Wednesday announcement that it plans on ramping up domestic manufacturing to produce an additional one billion Covid-19 shots a year is a welcome step that still fails to meet the urgency of the moment.

The development, first reported by the New York Times, came amid sustained accusations that rich nations, including the U.S., are contributing to global Covid-19 "vaccine apartheid" by hoarding doses and insufficiently pressuring pharmaceutical companies—who are swirling in profits—to share their technology and know-how to bring the virus that's killed over five million people worldwide to an end.

"To truly protect everyone's interests, we need a global solution."

According to Our World in Data, only 4.7% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. In the U.S., by contrast, nearly 69% of the population has received at least one dose.

The Biden administration said the plan will see billions invested in an effort to address both the current and potential future pandemics. The Washington Post reported that the proposal would rely on companies that make mRNA vaccines, which include those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.

White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said production would start in the second half of 2022. David Kessler, who leads the White House's Covid-19 response, said, "We are looking to enter into a historic partnership with one or more experienced pharmaceutical partners" that the partnership would "be used for Covid and any future pandemic viruses with the goal of having enough vaccines available within six to nine months of the identification of the virus."

As Robbie Silverman, Oxfam America's senior advocacy manager, sees it, the plan leaves out a much-needed transfer of technology and problematically proposes increased production only within the U.S.

"In order to gain the upper hand on this and future pandemics," Silverman said in a statement, "manufacturing should be spread around the world, especially Africa, not limited to the U.S. We know the coronavirus does not respect national borders; to truly protect everyone's interests, we need a global solution."

In addition to needing to add "robust tech transfer" to its plan, Silverman said the U.S. should support a "comprehensive waiver" proposal for sharing Covid-19-related vaccines and technologies at the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting later this month.

"Will it amount to another subsidy to Moderna and Pfizer, or be controlled by, or at least accountable to, the public?"

Advocacy group Public Citizen—which earlier this year released a plan for how rich nations could produce eight billion coronavirus vaccine doses with a $25 billion investment—welcomed the newly announced manufacturing boost as a life-saving result of grassroots activists who've been pressuring the administration to address global vaccine inequity.

"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, 18 months ago," Peter Maybarduk, director of the group's Access to Medicines program, said in a statement. "Nonetheless, a major investment to boost mRNA production can help save many lives, and potentially even shorten the pandemic."

However, "critical questions remain," said Maybarduk. "Who will control this added capacity?" he asked. "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?"

Like Silverman, Maybarduk lamented that the plan only calls for boosting production within the U.S. and leaves out technology transfer.

"Sharing doses is charity, and desperately needed," he said. "But sharing knowledge is justice."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Dems Urge DOJ Antitrust Probe Into $43 Billion Discovery-WarnerMedia Merger

"Giant corporations must not be allowed to stomp out competition, put up barriers to enter the market, and continue to exclude Latinos from the media industry."

Jessica Corbett ·


'We Won't Stop Fighting,' Vow South African Activists After Judge OKs Shell Seismic Blasting at Sea

"We must do everything we can to undo the destructive colonial legacy of extractivism, until we live in a world where people and the planet come before the profits of toxic fossil fuel companies."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Continues Drilling Boom on Public Lands Despite Campaign Pledge, Analysis Shows

"The reality is that in the battle between the oil industry and Biden, the industry is winning."

Julia Conley ·


Big Oil Profits Surge to $174 Billion in 2021 Amid Rising Gas Prices: Report

"Americans looking for someone to blame for the pain they experience at the pump need look no further than the wealthy oil and gas company executives who choose to line their own pockets."

Kenny Stancil ·


Rights Groups Decry 'Farcical and Corrupt' Verdict as Myanmar's Suu Kyi Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

"There are many detainees without the profile of Aung San Suu Kyi who currently face the terrifying prospect of years behind bars simply for peacefully exercising their human rights."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo