March 2, 2021 – President Joe Biden said Tuesday the United States would have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to vaccinate every American adult by May.
In an afternoon address, Biden also said:
- Pharmaceutical company Merck will begin production of Johnson & Johnson’s recently approved vaccine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is an important step in boosting vaccine production.
- Every teacher, school worker and childcare worker can receive at least the first vaccine this month.
“With this increased production of three safe and effective vaccines, we have the opportunity to meet national needs faster and to open our schools safely,” said Biden.
He said that while the number of vaccine doses is accelerating – he previously promised to have enough supplies by July to vaccinate American adults – the country still needs people to “put the shots in the arms of millions of Americans” .
The president has already met with retired health workers and asked them to join the effort, and on Tuesday he said he would mobilize other resources including the National Guard.
Speaking of educators, Biden said it was time they were treated like vital workers and given early access to the vaccines.
“We can reopen schools if the right steps are taken before staff are vaccinated,” he said. “But time and again we have heard from educators and parents that they are worried about it. Let’s treat personal learning as the essential service it provides and that means they get vaccinated right away. “
While this “marks a huge step in our quest to beat the pandemic,” Biden also warned that “this battle is far from over. With the spread of new varieties and setbacks, things can get worse again. “
Biden’s drive to advance the vaccination effort includes the unique partnership between Merck and Johnson & Johnson. The FDA approved the use of the J&J vaccine last weekend. And while the approval of a third vaccine in the US was welcomed, the announcement was tempered by the fact that the company was only able to ship 3.9 million doses out of the box.
The Washington Post said Merck will use two U.S. facilities for the J&J vaccine. One facility will manufacture the vaccine and the other will provide “fill-finish” services in which the vaccine will be vials and packaged for distribution.
The J&J vaccine has the advantage that only one shot is required and the vaccine does not need to be stored in extremely cold temperatures like the Pfizer and Modera vaccines with two shots.
Merck attempted to develop its own coronavirus vaccine but ceased operations on January 25, the company said in a press release.
Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said the company plans to ship 3.9 million cans immediately. The company is expected to deliver 16 million cans by the end of March and 100 million cans by July 1.
According to the CDC, 96.4 million doses of vaccine have been sent and 76.8 million doses have been given. Approximately 25.4 million people have received two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
WebMD Health News
Washington Post: “Biden Announces ‘Historic Partnership’: Merck Will Help Manufacture Johnson & Johnson Coronavirus Vaccines, Officials Say.”
Merck: “Merck is discontinuing development of SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 vaccine candidates; Continues development of two therapeutic trial candidates. “
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