President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the US expects to take delivery of enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, as his administration announced that drugmaker Merck will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.
With the bolstered supply, Mr Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritise vaccinating teachers and that the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy programme.
He challenged states to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all teachers by the end of March as part of his administration’s efforts to reopen more schools across the nation.
“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” said Mr Biden, who likened the partnership between the two drug companies to the spirit of national co-operation during the Second World War.
The announcement comes as the White House looks to speed the production of the single-dose J&J vaccine and accelerate the nation's plans to reach "herd immunity" in the US and begin restoring normalcy after the pandemic.
Mr Biden noted that vaccine supply was only one bottleneck towards that goal and that the new challenge will be distributing doses as swiftly as possible.
To that end, the Biden administration told governors Tuesday to prepare for their supplies of vaccine to continue to climb over the coming weeks. Additional doses are also heading towards a federally backed programme to administer doses in more accessible retail pharmacies.
Those pharmacies will be key in getting the vaccines to teachers, which will help reopen schools to better educate pupils who have been at risk at falling behind during the pandemic.
“Let’s treat in-person learning as the essential service that it is,” Mr Biden said.
Mr Biden had originally suggested that the supply would be enough to vaccinate every adult by the end of July. But despite the good news, he was cautious about predicting when the nation would return to normal. He said, “My hope is by this time next year, we’re going to be back to normal,” and added that it could come sooner.
Officials have said Johnson & Johnson faced unexpected production issues with its vaccine and produced only 3.9 million doses before receiving emergency-use authorisation on Saturday. The company has promised to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also announced Tuesday that the federal government was increasing supplies of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to states next week to 15.2 million doses per week, up from 14.5 million previously. States will also receive 2.8 million