Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves a new covid-19 vaccine that will be available in the United States very soon.
President Joe Biden will announce Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single shot coronavirus vaccine. The pact between fierce competitors that could sharply boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine, according to senior administration officials.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter that has not been announced, said they began scouring the country for additional manufacturing capacity after they realized in the first days of the administration that Johnson & Johnson had fallen behind in vaccine production. They soon sought to broker a deal with Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which had failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine.
Merck, under the arrangement, will dedicate two facilities in the United States to Johnson & Johnson’s shots. One will provide “fill-finish” services, the last stage of the production process during which the vaccine substance is placed in vials and packaged for distribution. The other will make the vaccine, and has the potential to vastly increase supply, perhaps even doubling what Johnson & Johnson could make on its own, according to the officials.
The Biden administration’s efforts to ramp up production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine suggest that it sees the vaccine playing a bigger role in addressing the challenges ahead, such as the eventual need for children’s vaccines and possibly for boosters to counter virus variants, said a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it. Johnson & Johnson is conducting a trial of a two-shot vaccine regimen, with the doses given two months apart; results are not expected until at least May. Johnson & Johnson did not respond to a request for comment. Merck did not comment on the deal but said it “remains steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic.”
Teaming up with Merck, Johnson & Johnson has a partner with a long tradition of making vaccines. In the United States, Merck is the sole supplier of the combination childhood vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella. It developed Gardasil, which protects against the human papillomavirus. And it won Food and Drug Administration approval for an Ebola vaccine in 2019.
Johnson & Johnson has been searching the world for manufacturing sites where it could produce doses of its vaccine on a global scale. It has publicly disclosed more than half a dozen manufacturing sites on four continents that it said were winnowed from more than 100 possibilities. Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky told CNBC on Monday While the science and the biology, the chemistry is certainly challenging … the engineering feat of actually producing it is just as challenging, and we’ve been working very, very closely with partners around the world.”
The FDA authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use in those 18 and older on Saturday. The company said it would immediately ship nearly 4 million doses in the United States, and a total of 20 million by the end of March, which is 17 million less than expected under its government contract. Its current schedule calls for a recovery from those delays, with the company saying it is on track to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June. A top company executive told Congress last week that it has a goal of manufacturing 1 billion doses worldwide by year’s end.