Biden says the US will have enough vaccines for ‘every adult in America’ by the end of May

Biden
President Joe Biden at a meeting with labor leaders in the Oval Office on February 17. Evan Vucci/AP
  • President Joe Biden says the US will have enough vaccine doses for every US adult by the end of May.
  • On Tuesday he announced a partnership between the pharma giants Johnson & Johnson and Merck.
  • He said the two companies would collaborate to “expand the production” of J&J’s coronavirus vaccine.
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President Joe Biden on Tuesday said the US would have enough doses of coronavirus vaccines for “every adult in America” by the end of May. The news is a major development in the COVID-19 pandemic and speeds up the estimated timeline to reach this threshold by about a month.

Biden said during a White House address that the pharmaceutical giant Merck would work with Johnson & Johnson, a major competitor, to manufacture J&J’s new vaccine and produce 100 million doses of it by the end of May. The US Food and Drug Administration authorized J&J’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use over the weekend.

“Today, we’re announcing a major step forward,” Biden said Tuesday. “Two of the largest healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the world that are usually competitors are working together on the vaccine.”

He added: “Johnson & Johnson and Merck will work together to expand the production of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II. We also invoked the Defense Production Act to equip two Merck facilities to the standards necessary to safely manufacture the J&J vaccine.”

“As a consequence of the stepped-up process that I ordered, and just outlined, this country will have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” Biden said.

Biden touted his administration’s effort to dramatically expand vaccine distribution and contrasted it with that of President Donald Trump, saying, “When we came into office, the prior administration had not contracted nearly enough vaccine for adults in America.”

Biden said that to speed up vaccine distribution his administration had brought back retired healthcare workers, deployed more than 1,500 federal medical personnel, and set up rural and mobile vaccination centers.

The president also recommended that states prioritize vaccine distribution to teachers and school staff members and said he’d like to see all educators receive a first vaccine dose by the end of March. Biden added that he hoped “by this time next year, we’re going to be back to normal.” But he called on Americans to “continue to be smart” about following COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.

As of Monday, the US had administered almost 77 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US is expecting 600 million doses of those two vaccines to be administered over the next four months.

While both of those vaccines require two shots several weeks apart, the J&J vaccine involves just a single shot, is cheaper to administer, and may perform better against coronavirus variants.

—NBC News (@NBCNews) March 2, 2021

“It’s nice to have a single-dose vaccine,” Eric Rubin, an FDA committee member who is the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, said Friday after the agency voted to authorize the J&J vaccine for emergency use. “The demand is so large that it clearly has a place.”