Biden takes steps to help Merck boost Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine supply
Merck & Co Inc will help make rival Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in order to boost the slower-than- promised production of the one-dose shot, U.S. President Joe Biden said, Trend reports citing Reuters..
Biden said the U.S. government had invoked the Defense Production Act to help equip two Merck plants to make the J&J vaccine.
He said the plants already making J&J’s vaccine would also step up their output, producing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
An increased supply of the J&J vaccine sooner would speed the U.S. vaccination effort considerably, because you can inoculate twice as many people with the same number of shots. The other two U.S.-authorized vaccines produced by Pfizer Inc with partner BioNTech and Moderna Inc both require two shots a few weeks apart.
Biden said his administration has now secured enough vaccine for every adult in the United States to be vaccinated by the end of May.
Under its contract, J&J was supposed to deliver 12 million doses by the end of February, but had less than 4 million ready to ship when the vaccine was authorized on Saturday.
It expects to be able to deliver another 16 million doses by the end of this month - still well short of its previous commitments - but will not ship any next week.
The company has said it will be able to provide the full 100 million doses it has agreed to supply by its original midyear deadline.
Merck’s collaboration with New Jersey neighbor J&J comes after Merck scrapped development of its own COVID-19 vaccine candidates in January. Merck last month said it was working on a deal to open up its manufacturing capacity to other vaccine makers.
Merck said on Tuesday it will also receive up to $268.8 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a U.S. agency charged with developing drugs and vaccines. The funding is intended to help it to adapt and make available a number of its plants for COVID-19 vaccine and medicine production.
The partnership is the latest example of large drugmakers working together to help produce COVID-19 vaccines to meet global demand. Swiss drugmaker Novartis signed an agreement in January to fill vials for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, while French drugmaker Sanofi SA will help fill and pack millions of doses of Pfizer’s vaccine starting in July.