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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

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker