U.S. President Joe Biden pledged Tuesday that his country will have enough covid-19 vaccine for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than previously estimated. In a speech at the White House, Biden said that the fact that there are already three licensed anti-covid vaccines in the US – those of Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – makes it possible to bring forward his promise to have enough vaccines for all adults before the end of May.
According to the president, they are “on track “to have enough vaccines for all adults by the end of May”, and not by the end of July, as he predicted in February.
TWO RIVALS WHO WILL COLLABORATE
Biden will use a wartime law to ensure mass production of vaccines, and as part of those efforts, two rival companies, Merck and Johnson & Johnson, will collaborate to multiply doses. “When I came to the White House I learned that Johnson & Johnson was behind in vaccine production and that we had the potential to add a very effective vaccine to the two existing ones,” said Biden, whose Administration today announced an agreement that puts the two competitors to work together and uses a law designed for wartime.
“This is a wartime effort,” said Biden, who said he expects all school and daycare employees and teachers to receive at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of this month.
Under the agreement, Merck, known as MSD outside the U.S., will produce at two of its plants the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which received emergency authorization this weekend for its single-dose serum. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at her daily press briefing that this agreement “is unprecedented and historic, as two companies that are usually competitors join together to increase vaccination capacity.”
THE WAR AGAINST THE PANDEMIC
The agreement with Merck invokes the Defense Production Act, a wartime crisis legislation devised during the Korean War (1950-53), for the manufacture of the covid vaccine and to ensure that Merck plants have preferential access to the necessary machinery and raw materials. Biden assured that the Pentagon will be responsible for facilitating the logistics to increase production of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine.
During his term, former President Donald Trump (2017-2021) also invoked this emergency law to force General Motors (GM) to produce respirators at the beginning of the pandemic, although he made limited use of this ability to force the private sector to manufacture or give preference to certain types of production needed during wartime. Merck will support Johnson & Johnson in the final part of sealing the vials with the serum, as well as in the production of the vaccine, something that could begin in June.
According to the White House, this agreement has been possible because Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses a technique similar to others available on the market for other diseases, and which Merck manufactures. Johnson & Johnson committed last week to deliver 20 million doses before the end of this month, below the 37 million committed in its contract with the federal government, which prompted the U.S. government to intervene to find a solution.
The White House announced Tuesday that Johnson & Johnson will immediately distribute about 4 million doses of its vaccine and this will increase deliveries to the states to about 15.2 million doses per week.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine requires only one dose, not two as in the cases of Pfizer and Moderna, and can be stored in normal refrigerators above the freezing point without problems, which greatly facilitates logistics.
NEARLY 77 MILLION DOSES
However, it is about 30% less effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 from ever manifesting as a covid-19 infection, but it almost entirely prevents severe cases of the disease and thus hospitalizations and deaths.
The largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history, which includes the development in record time of vaccines, has injected 76.9 million doses in the country in 15% of the population. As efforts to immunize the country progress, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott on Tuesday lifted the statewide order to wear a mask to protect against covid-19, making him the first major state in the country to eliminate it, despite warnings from medical authorities.
The largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history has resulted in 76.9 million doses injected.
At a press conference in Lubbock (Texas), Abbott indicated that also from March 10 all establishments will be able to open without any type of restriction. The Governor justified his decision by the good pace of vaccination, and pointed out that next week more than 7 million vaccines will have been administered.
Texas, the second most populated state with 30 million inhabitants, is the third, behind New York and California, with the highest number of deaths due to the pandemic, with more than 40,000 deceased. There, the mask order had been in force in the state for 8 months.
Although in recent days the daily average of new cases has fallen significantly in the USA, to below 70,000 per day, compared to around 300,000 at the beginning of the year, the authorities continue to warn of the existing danger, especially due to the appearance of new strains.