NATIONAL NEWS

Biden Vows Enough Vaccine For All US Adults By End Of May

Mar 2, 2021, 3:05 PM
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House on March 2, 2021 in Was...
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House on March 2, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. expects to take delivery of enough coronavirus vaccines for all adult Americans by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, as his administration announced that drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.

With the bolstered supply, Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers, and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program. He challenged states to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all teachers by the end of March as part of his administration’s efforts to reopen more schools across the nation.

“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” said Biden, who likened the partnership between the two drug companies to the spirit of national cooperation during World War II.

The announcement comes as the White House looks to speed the production of the single-dose J&J vaccine and accelerate the nation’s plans to reach “herd immunity” in the U.S. and begin restoring normalcy after the pandemic. Biden noted that vaccine supply was only one bottleneck toward that goal, and that the new challenge will be injecting doses into arms as swiftly as possible.

To that end, the Biden administration told governors Tuesday to prepare for their supplies of vaccine to continue to climb over the coming weeks. Additional doses are also heading toward a federally backed program to administer doses in more accessible retail pharmacies.

Those pharmacies will be key in getting the vaccines into the arms of teachers, which will help reopen schools to better educate students who have been at risk at falling behind during the pandemic.

“Let’s treat in-person learning as the essential service that it is,” Biden said.

Biden had originally suggested that the supply would be enough to vaccinate every adult American by the end of July. But despite the good news, he was leery of predicting when the nation would return to normal. He said, “My hope is by this time next year we’re going to be back to normal,” adding that he maybe it could come sooner.

Officials have said J&J faced unexpected production issues with its vaccine and produced only 3.9 million doses ahead of its receiving emergency use authorization on Saturday. The company has promised to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also announced Tuesday that the federal government was increasing supply of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to states next week to 15.2 million doses per week, up from 14.5 million previously. States will also receive 2.8 million doses of the J&J shot this week.

On a call with governors Tuesday, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said states should prepare for administering 16-17 million total weekly doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of March, climbing to 17-18 million weekly by early April. The supply of J&J doses to states, expected to dip after the initial shipment this week, will climb to 4-6 million weekly doses by the end of March and 5-6 million doses weekly through the end of April.

More than 800,000 doses of the J&J vaccine will also be distributed this week to pharmacies to administer in a separate federally-run program that also includes 2.4 million doses of the other two shots. Both figures are expected to steadily increase, as the White House increasingly looks to the capacity of pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens to help speed the nation’s mass vaccination campaign.

Facing questions about the company’s slipping delivery schedule, J&J Vice President Richard Nettles told lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week that the company had faced “significant challenges” because of its “highly complex” manufacturing process.

The assistance from Merck was expected to help J&J meet its production commitments and expand supply even further, but the administration did not immediately provide specifics.

Psaki said that an “across the administration effort” was required to get the two historic rivals to work together on the vaccines, even though conversations between the two companies have been going on for months.

“There’s a difference between conversations and it moving forward,” she said.

President Joe Biden is set to highlight the development in a speech Tuesday afternoon, as his administration now expects to have enough supply of the three approved vaccines to inoculate all eligible American adults by June — though actually delivering the injections could take longer.

It was not immediately clear when the effect of Merck’s assistance would be reflected in supply. Previously, federal officials have cautioned that setting up the highly specialized manufacturing lines to produce vaccines would take months.

The White House said Merck would devote two plants to the production process. One would make the vaccine and the other would handle inserting the vaccine into vials and ensuring strict quality controls. Psaki said the Biden administration was using its powers under the Defense Production Act to help Merck retool to work on the production.

The news was first reported by The Washington Post.

Compared to the two-dose versions produced by Moderna and Pfizer, the J&J vaccine is less resource intensive to distribute and administer, making it a critical piece to U.S. plans to spread vaccinations around the world — but only once Americans are inoculated. The J&J vaccine can be stored for months at refrigerated temperatures, rather than frozen, and doesn’t require patients to return for a second dose three or four weeks later.

J&J has set up a global production network that includes brewing bulk vaccine at its Janssen facility in the Netherlands, and with a company in the U.S., Emergent BioSolutions, and another in India, Biological E. Ltd. Other contract manufacturers are lined up to help with later steps, including putting the vaccine into vials, in the U.S., Italy, Spain and South Africa.

In the scramble to create COVID-19 vaccines, the three Western drug makers who’ve dominated the vaccine industry for decades — Merck & Co., Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline — surprisingly all fell short. Merck halted its own plans to develop a coronavirus vaccine earlier this year, finding that their candidates were generating an inferior immune system response compared with other vaccines. It said it would instead focus its work on developing treatments for COVID-19.

Now, amid the global clamor for more vaccine doses, those heavyweights are helping manufacture doses for less-experienced rivals whose vaccines won the first emergency authorizations from regulators.

Merck has since said it was in talks to help other drug companies with vaccine production, but wouldn’t say Tuesday whether other deals are imminent.

“Merck remains steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic and to preparing to address future pandemics,” the Kenilworth, New Jersey-based company said in a statement.

Sanofi Pasteur, named for pioneering French biologist Louis Pasteur, produces more than 1 billion vaccine doses a year and is a leader in pediatric, influenza and polio vaccines. It, too, has had delays with its COVID-19 vaccine candidates. While it tries to resolve those problems, Sanofi has agreed to bottle and package about 125 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, as well as roughly 12 million doses per month of J&J’s vaccine.

GlaxoSmithKline, which makes vaccines against shingles, hepatitis, meningitis and many childhood illnesses, has focused its COVID-19 efforts on combining its adjuvant technology with rival companies’ vaccines. Adjuvants boost immune system response to vaccines, meaning smaller doses could be used and supply could be stretched.

___

Johnson reported from Fairless Hills, PA. Lemire reported from New York. Lauran Neergaard in Washington contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

FILE...
MICHAEL GOLDBERG, Associated Press/Report for America

Viral video of Mississippi arrest sparks investigation

An incident involving a white Mississippi Highway Patrol officer and three Black men is under investigation after a viral video showed the officer putting a handcuffed man into a chokehold and wrestling him into a ditch.
17 hours ago
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 14: Historian David McCullough poses for a picture at the History Makers Gala a...
Associated Press

David McCullough, Pulitzer-winning historian, dies at 89

David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose lovingly crafted narratives on subjects ranging from the Brooklyn Bridge to Presidents John Adams and Harry Truman made him among the most popular and influential historians of his time, has died. He was 89.
17 hours ago
Lexington Fire Department Search and Rescue team perform a targeted search on Highway 476 where thr...
SEUNG MIN KIM, CHRIS MEGERIAN and BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press

Biden surveys flood damage in Kentucky, pledges more US help

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are witnessing firsthand the damage from deadly and devastating storms that have resulted in the worst flooding in Kentucky’s history.
17 hours ago
FILE PHOTO (Deseret News)...
Associated Press

Man arrested in death of Navajo woman; remains found in 2021

Authorities say a Pinon man has been arrested in connection with the death of a Navajo woman who was reported missing in 2019.
17 hours ago
The United States obtained a warrant for seizure of an Airbus A319-100 owned and controlled by sanc...
Kara Scannell

Judge authorizes warrant for US to seize Russian oligarch’s $90 million private plane

U.S. authorities have obtained a warrant to seize a Russian oligarch's private plane, valued at over $90 million, for violating U.S. sanctions for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
17 hours ago
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 16: Olivia Newton-John performs during Fire Fight Australia at ANZ Sta...
Brandon Griggs, CNN

Olivia Newton-John, singer and actress, dead at 73

Olivia Newton-John, who charmed generations of viewers in the blockbuster movie "Grease," died on Monday, according to a statement from her husband.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
...
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...
AARP Utah

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Biden Vows Enough Vaccine For All US Adults By End Of May