Biden meets May timeline for vaccines for all U.S. adults – WPRI.com
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden has said the United States plans to receive enough coronavirus vaccine for all adults by the end of May – two months ahead of schedule – and he urged states to get at least one vaccine in the arms of teachers at the end of March to hasten the reopening of schools.
Biden also announced on Tuesday that drugmaker Merck would help produce the new single-dose vaccine approved by Johnson & Johnson, comparing the partnership between the two pharmaceutical companies to the spirit of national cooperation during World War II.
Despite the accelerated pace of vaccine production, Americans’ inoculation work could extend into the summer, officials said, depending on both the government’s ability to deliver doses and willingness. Americans to roll up their sleeves.
Biden’s announcements quickly raised expectations about when the country could safely emerge from the pandemic, but although he was expressing optimism, Biden was quick to temper the outlook.
“I was warned not to give an answer to this because we don’t know for sure,” Biden said, before saying his hope for a return to normal was some time before “this time the next year.”
As Biden spoke, states across the country wanted to ease virus restrictions. This is despite objections from the White House and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, who have warned against relaxing viral protocols until more Americans are vaccinated.
In Texas, GOP Governor Greg Abbott has decided to lift his state mask mandate and a host of other limitations. Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has eased capacity limits for restaurants and public and residential gatherings.
Fauci previously said the nation needs to achieve a vaccination rate of around 80% to achieve “herd immunity.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 8% of the population have been fully vaccinated, although the pace of vaccination has increased.
The Biden administration has asked governors to prepare to administer even more doses in the coming weeks. Other injections are also directed to the federally-backed program for administering doses at retail pharmacies, which federal officials say can double or triple their vaccination rates.
More than 800,000 doses of the J&J vaccine will be distributed this week to pharmacies, in addition to the 2.4 million they now receive from Pfizer and Moderna.
These pharmacies will be essential in getting vaccines into the arms of teachers – especially in the 20 or so states where they have not been prioritized for vaccines. The goal is to help reopen schools to better educate students who were at risk of falling behind during the pandemic and reduce the burden on parents who have had to choose between childcare and a job.
“Let’s treat in-person learning like the essential service that it is,” Biden said. Teachers will be able to register directly with participating retail pharmacies, the administration said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also announced on Tuesday that the federal government is increasing the supply of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to states next week to 15.2 million doses per week, from 14.5 million before. States will also receive 2.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine this week.
In a call with governors on Tuesday, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said states should prepare to administer 16 to 17 million total weekly doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end. of March, from 17 million to 18 million per week at the beginning of April. The supply of J&J doses to states, which is expected to decline after the initial shipment this week, will increase to 4 million to 6 million weekly doses by the end of March and to 5 million to 6 million weekly doses through the end of April.
Officials said J&J was facing unexpected production issues with its vaccine and only produced 3.9 million doses before being cleared for use on Saturday. J&J Vice President Richard Nettles told lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week that the company faced “significant challenges” due to its “very complex” manufacturing process.
Prior to the approval of the J&J vaccine, Biden had suggested it would take until the end of July to have enough vaccine for every adult in the United States.
Psaki said an “effort across the administration” was needed to get the two historic rivals to work together on vaccines, even though conversations between J&J and Merck have been going on for months.
“There’s a difference between having conversations and moving forward,” she says.
White House adviser Andy Slavitt said Wednesday that Biden was preparing for all eventualities to speed up vaccine supply and that May’s new schedule was achievable.
“We are not used to surprise,” he said.
The White House said Merck will dedicate two factories to the production process. One would make the vaccine and the other would take care of 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 reorganize to work on production.
The White House said the first doses produced with help from Merck would be available from May. Federal officials have warned that setting up highly specialized manufacturing lines to produce vaccines would take months.
Compared to the two-dose versions produced by Moderna and Pfizer, the J&J vaccine requires fewer resources to distribute and administer, making it critical for US plans to release the vaccines around the world – but only after Americans are inoculated. . J&J vaccine can be stored for months at refrigerated temperatures rather than frozen.
J&J has set up a global production network which includes the brewing of bulk vaccines at its factory in Janssen in the Netherlands, and with a company in the United States, Emergent BioSolutions, and another in India, Biological E. Ltd . with subsequent steps, including putting the vaccine into vials, in the United States, Italy, Spain and South Africa.
In the race to create COVID-19 vaccines, the three Western drugmakers who have dominated the vaccine industry for decades – Merck & Co., Sanofi, and GlaxoSmithKline – have surprisingly all failed. Merck ended its own plans to develop a coronavirus vaccine earlier this year, finding that its candidates generated a lower immune system response than other vaccines. He said he would instead focus his work on developing treatments for COVID-19.
Now, with a global clamor for more vaccine doses, these heavyweights are helping manufacture doses for less experienced rivals whose vaccines have won the first emergency clearances from regulators.
Merck has since said it has been in talks to help other pharmaceutical companies with vaccine production, but would not say Tuesday whether more deals are imminent.
Johnson reported from Fairless Hills, Pa. Lemire reported from New York. Lauran Neergaard in Washington and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.