President Joe Biden said on March 2, the U.S. expects to take delivery of enough coronavirus vaccine for all adults by the end of May — two months earlier than anticipated — and he pushed states to get at least one shot into the arms of teachers by the end of March to hasten school reopening’s.
Biden also announced that the drugmaker will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved one-shot vaccine, likening the partnership between the two drug companies to the spirit of national cooperation during World War II.
“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for all adults in America by the end of May,” Biden said.
Merck and Johnson & Johnson Partnership
Today, in our COVID team’s weekly meeting with the governors, we announced another supply increase for states, tribes, and territories — from 14.5 to 15.2 million doses per week. This is up from 8.6 million when we came into office. Furthermore, states are also receiving 2.8 million of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, so they are receiving a total of 18 million doses.
Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced today it has entered into multiple agreements to support efforts to expand manufacturing capacity and supply of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 medicines and vaccines. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a division of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will provide Merck with funding of up to $268.8 million to adapt and make available a number of existing manufacturing facilities for the production of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines and medicines.
Merck has also entered into agreements with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, to support the manufacturing and supply of Johnson & Johnson’s SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccine. Merck will use its facilities in the United States to produce drug substance, formulate and fill vials of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
“We are steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic as part of the remarkable efforts of the entire medical and scientific community,” said Mike Nally, executive vice president, Human Health at Merck. “This funding from BARDA will allow us to accelerate our efforts to scale up our manufacturing capacity to enable timely delivery of much-needed medicines and vaccines for the pandemic.”
Biden’s Plan To Get A Vaccine For All Adults
Despite the stepped-up pace of vaccine production, the work of inoculating Americans could extend well into the summer, officials said, depending both on the government’s capacity to deliver doses and Americans’ willingness to roll up their sleeves.
Biden’s announcements quickly raised expectations for when the nation could safely emerge from the pandemic with the promise of speedier vaccinations, but even as he expressed optimism, Biden quickly tempered the outlook for a return to life as it was before the virus hit.
“I’ve been cautioned not to give an answer to that because we don’t know for sure,” Biden said, before saying his hope for a return to normal was sometime before “this time next year.”
More than 800,000 doses of the J&J vaccine will also be distributed this week to pharmacies, on top of the 2.4 million they are now getting from Pfizer and Moderna.
Those pharmacies will be key in getting the vaccines into the arms of teachers — particularly in the roughly 20 states where they have not been prioritized for shots. The aim is to help reopen schools to better educate students who have been at risk of falling behind during the pandemic and reduce the burden on parents who have had to choose between childcare and a job.