Instead of waiting months or years for little Moderna to produce its — or rather our — vaccine in sufficient quantities to meet the emergency, the Biden administration should license it to Merck and every other qualified company who can produce it, and put in large orders.
There are additional vaccines that could be made available quickly: The $40 billion/year heavy hitter Johnson & Johnson has one, as does middleweight $23 billion/year AstraZeneca. Safety testing on both of these vaccines was completed months ago. Yet the FDA is still dragging its heels on approving them for use. In the AstraZeneca case, the FDA’s insistence upon spending another three death-filled months on a test involving 30,000 people before it gives approval is particularly galling, as the AstraZeneca vaccine has already been given to over 1 million people in the U.K.
Beyond the vaccines, there is the issue of testing. Any pandemic can be shut down — even without vaccines — if carriers can be isolated. Rapid tests are now available that can identify COVID carriers in 20 minutes. If all American workers were tested once per week, we could send all carriers home, isolating the virus while keeping businesses open.