The purchase of 100 million more of the single-dose vaccine would ensure that every adult in the United States could be inoculated.
(CN) — The Biden administration on Wednesday announced the purchase of 100 million additional single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, a move that would ensure the full vaccination of every adult in the U.S.
White House health officials said it was not clear when the additional doses would become available.
President Joe Biden met with the CEOs of pharmaceutical giants J&J and Merck at the White House on Wednesday to announce the deal. White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said earlier Wednesday the federal government will also receive more than 200 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna, the makers of the two-dose vaccines that have been used in the U.S. since late last year.
The drive to get more shots into people’s arms led to the partnership with the private sector. Biden said when he took office his administration moved to work with J&J and Merck to boost vaccine production.
“During World War II, one of the country’s slogans was ‘We are all in this together.’ The companies took that slogan to heart,” said Biden.
“I’ve not hesitated to use my power in the Defense Production Act to expedite critical materials in vaccine production such as equipment, machinery and supplies,” the president added. “There’s always a chance we’ll encounter unexpected challenges or there will be a new need for a vaccination effort. A lot can happen. A lot can change and we need to be prepared. Of course we need to match the miracle of science and the skill of manufacturing with the massive logistical undertaking of vaccinating of every 300 million Americans.”
The J&J deal would give the country adequate supply in case of manufacturing issues with the other pharmaceutical companies.
“This order allows for the president to plan for the future and the latter part of the year,” Slavitt said at a White House press briefing. “This is war time, and as facts still emerge it gives us maximum flexibility for our upcoming needs.”
J&J CEO Alex Gorsky said in the early days of the pandemic vaccine development wasn’t a race against competitors, but a race against time to defeat a common enemy.
“Today, we’re at war with Covid-19,” Gorsky said at the White House meeting. “Last week, I was privileged enough to witness some of the very first residents in our home state of New Jersey receiving doses of our vaccines just 13 months after we started the development process.”
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said federal funding will allow the ramp-up of vaccine production. He thanked Biden for “creating a force multiplier in a battle we simply must win.”
That war mentality has mobilized a nationwide inoculation effort in the last few months. So far, the U.S. has fully vaccinated more than 32 million residents. On average, more than 2 million shots are administered per day, while over the weekend 3 million doses were administered in a single day.
However, most states can only vaccinate certain populations due to supply shortages.
Still, the vaccine tap is opening up and the results are spreading across the country in the form of drops in daily infections and hospitalizations. The most recent data shows 1,600 daily deaths reported by federal health officials, down from over 2,000 deaths just a few weeks ago and over 3,000 deaths daily in December and January.
“While these trends are starting to head in the right direction, the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths still remain too high and are somber reminders that we must remain vigilant as we work to scale up our vaccination efforts across this country,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky during a Covid-19 response press briefing.
The CDC issued new guidelines this week indicating anyone who has received their full vaccination can meet indoors with other fully vaccinated people — without face coverings and without practicing physical distancing — two weeks after receiving their second dose.
Biden said the U.S. will have enough vaccines for every adult by May.