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Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The federal government is demanding Moderna provide enough vaccines to the global initiative COVAX, at not-for-profit prices, a top federal official said during an intense panel event today.

What they're saying: "We expect that Moderna will step up as a company," David Kessler, the Biden administration's chief science officer of the COVID-19 response, said, adding Moderna has additional capacity to meet these demands. "Failure to do that would be unconscionable in my view."

Driving the news: Kessler said Moderna has the capacity to make at least 1 billion extra doses in the short term.

  • He said the government has made Moderna aware it has already received $10 billion from taxpayers that helped fund the research and supply current doses.
  • "These companies understand our authorities and understand we would not be afraid to use them," he added. "The United States government has played a very substantial role in making Moderna the company it is."
  • Kessler added the Defense Production Act "is probably the strongest authority, and that does give the president the authority to allocate doses."

The panel also featured Zain Rizvi of Public Citizen, Fatima Hassan of Health Justice Initiative and James Krellenstein of Prep4All.

  • They pushed Kessler about what specific threats the U.S. has leveraged against Moderna if global vaccine supply is not increased, and why the U.S. hasn't done more to pressure companies to share the vaccine technology, like through the mRNA vaccine hubs set up by the World Health Organization.
  • "It's unconscionable the U.S. government isn't doing more to support those hubs," Rizvi said.
  • "This has been anything but light touch, let me assure you," Kessler said. However, he did not elaborate on what would happen if Moderna did not meet their current demands.

Go deeper

21 hours ago - Health

Fauci: J&J recipients will likely be able to mix and match boosters

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will likely allow recipients of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 to mix and match vaccine boosters depending on their individual health, NIAID director Anthony Fauci told ABC News' '"This Week" on Sunday.

Why it matters: The FDA's vaccine expert panel on Friday unanimously endorsed booster shots for adult recipients of the J&J vaccine. The panel is also exploring the mix and match strategy but hasn't yet taken a formal vote on the matter.

Oct 16, 2021 - Health

5 times as many police officers have died from COVID as from guns since pandemic began

Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for police officers even though members of law enforcement were among the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, CNN reports, citing data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Why it matters: Nearly 476 police officers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, compared to the 93 deaths as a result of gunfire in the same time period, according to ODMP and CNN.

15 hours ago - Health

Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, in an "Axios on HBO" interview, said he's reluctant to withhold federal funding from states that won't enforce school mask mandates because he doesn't want to hurt students.

Why it matters: Cardona's comments suggest there are limits to how far the Biden administration will go in pressuring states to adopt universal masking — or vaccine mandates.