Merck is Helping Produce Johnson & Johnson's Vaccine
The Biden administration has been actively working to ramp up the production of vaccines. On Sunday, the administration announced that the US government would ship out Johnson & Johnson's entire inventory of 3.9 million doses this week. However, production is expected to be slow over the next few weeks. 16 million additional doses are expected by the end of next month.
Under the agreement, Merck is dedicating two facilities in the US to develop Johnson & Johnson's vaccine. One facility will produce the vaccine and the other will provide “fill-finish” procedures involved with filling vials. Merck will be receiving $105 million from the Defense Production Act to upgrade its facilities to produce the vaccine. This move comes amid a scramble to increase vaccine production from lawmakers.
“These efforts will contribute to Johnson & Johnson's ability to accelerate delivery of their vaccine doses from 100 million doses by the end of June to at or near 100 million doses by the end of May, ” HHS said in a statement. “In the long term, these actions will ultimately double Johnson & Johnson's U.S. capacity to produce drug substance and increase the U.S. capacity for fill-finish.”
Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that the partnership “will enhance our production capacity so that we can supply beyond our current commitments.”
Merck stated that it “remains steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic and to preparing to address future pandemics.”
"Two of the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies in the world that are usually competitors are working together on the vaccine," President Biden said. Furthermore, he stated that he hopes vaccines will go to teachers, childcare workers, and school staff. It was reported that the administration was "in close coordination with states across the country and expect that they will act quickly to implement this action."
When asked about when he thinks the US will be back to "normal," President Biden avoided a direct answer but stated that he thinks sometime next year. Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson started to ship 4 million doses of its vaccine. This is far less than the 10 million doses it promised to have ready by the end of February. The company has plans to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million by the end of June.
Johnson & Johnson's vaccine has been shown to provide 85 percent protection against COVID-19 28 days after vaccination. Furthermore, the vaccine is one-dose and does not require low temperatures to be stored.
On Monday, Johnson and Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said: "that's 100 million people by the end of June can have one shot and be done. And so, we think that the convenience, the ease of logistics that's going to represent is significant, not only for our country but for people around the world."