The Biden administration has invoked a wartime law to boost vaccine production, taking a step towards alleviating supply shortages of the shot that could bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.
Biden COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt announced at a press briefing on Friday that the administration had invoked the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law that allows the federal government to compel the production of critical supplies.
Slavitt said that the order was partly responsible for Pfizer supplying more vaccines to the U.S. sooner.
“Last week, they announced an acceleration of their targets on when they’ll be able to deliver the vaccines,” he said. “I”m not going to say it’s the entire reason, but it’s a critical factor.”
It’s a marked departure from Trump administration policy of eschewing the tool in favor of letting states battle over limited supplies of PPE and vaccine, and comes as the Biden administration attempts to use the power of the federal government to coordinate the response to the virus.
Tim Manning, COVID-19 supply chain coordinator, said at the briefing that the administration was invoking the DPA to help Pfizer boost its production targets.
Those orders will put Pfizer first in line to receive filtration units and filling pumps from its suppliers. TPM has chronicled the difficulties in the vaccine supply chain and the potential use of the DPA to alleviate the problems.
The Biden administration has moved to strengthen the federal response in the vaccine rollout in other ways, as well.
The Pentagon announced on Friday that it had approved the deployment of 1,000 troops to support mass vaccination sites around the country.
These polices are new, and come after the Trump administration left the initial months of the vaccine rollout to the states.
“I would love to tell you that we were sitting on a stockpile of vaccines when we got here, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” Slavitt said.