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May 9, 2021, 12:30 p.m. EDT

Biden administration set to ramp up vaccine diplomacy in drive to inoculate world against COVID-19

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Associated Press

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The primary obstacle to vaccine production, they’ve argued, remains production bottlenecks and shortages of the specialized supplies needed to make the shots — a challenge that could become more acute if other countries hoard them in anticipation of trying to make their own doses at home. The Pfizer vaccine, for instance, has more than 200 components, many of which are in demand around the world.

Some in the Biden White House, in addition to noting that the president pledged to do this during the campaign, also believe that it creates a low stakes political victory.

They said the decision, which has been applauded by some on the left, is good Democratic politics and that few will be outraged on the behalf of the drug companies, even though those firms have been praised as heroes of the pandemic.

White House aides maintain that Biden’s action is limited to COVID-19 vaccines because of the scale of the pandemic, but some progressives who have pushed to have the government regulate the price of prescription drugs saw an opening.

“Here’s why Pharma’s really really whining about the COVID vaccine patents: the government might finally have the spine to lower drug prices here at home,” tweeted Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Friday. “And it should.”

“President Biden can lower drug prices by producing drugs like insulin, naloxone, and EpiPens at low costs,” she said. “And he doesn’t need Congress to do it — he can use existing compulsory licensing and march-in authorities to bypass patents for public health needs.”

The debate over the inoculations comes as the administration set a new goal to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July Fourth as Biden tackles the vexing problem of winning over the skeptics and those unmotivated to get vaccinated.

Demand for vaccines has dropped off nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their allotment of doses unordered . Already more than 56% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 105 million are fully vaccinated, nearly one-third of the population inclusive of children, who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. The U.S. is currently administering first doses at a rate of about 965,000 per day — half the rate of three weeks ago, but almost twice as fast as needed to meet Biden’s target.

MarketWatch contributed.

Read on: The U.S. prepares to begin giving COVID-19 shots to 12- to 15-year-olds as Pfizer’s vaccine nears expanded authorization

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