WASHINGTON — The White House says President Joe Biden is using the Defense Production Act to help bolster vaccine production, at-home coronavirus testing kits and surgical gloves.
Tim Manning, the White House’s COVID-19 supply coordinator, says the administration will help Pfizer clear a bottleneck around capabilities with vaccine production by giving the drugmaker first priority to needed supplies.
Manning says the U.S. is also investing in six manufacturers to develop at-home and point-of-care tests for the coronavirus, with the goal of producing 60 million tests by the end of the summer.
Manning says, “The country is well behind where we need to be in testing,” and the new contracts will help boost supply.
A Harvard professor who has been an outspoken advocate for months for cheap, rapid, at-home coronavirus testing said he was encouraged by the announcement, but called for the government to move even faster.
Dr. Michael Mina, a professor at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “We have tests that are available today, can be made in the millions today. They could have been made in the millions yesterday, months ago. We don’t have to wait till the summer.”
He said federal regulators have lagged in in approving the tests.
”There’s at least one company that’s able to make almost 10 million tests per day right now, in America, that just is not getting authorized,” he said.
Another round of contracts Manning discussed Friday will build capacity to produce surgical gloves in the U.S., including processing the raw materials for the gloves. There were widespread shortages at the start of the pandemic last year.
Manning said the goal is to produce more than 1 billion nitrile gloves domestically by the end of this year.
Currently about 6.9 million Americans have received the full two-dose regimen required to get maximum protection from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. That translates to about 2% of the U.S. population.
To reach widespread or “herd” immunity — about 70% to 85% of Americans must be vaccinated. The U.S. is in a race with the virus, which is also spawning mutations that may prove resistant to vaccines.
Martin Fincuane of the Globe staff contributed.