(CNN) — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the United States would have enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for every American adult by the end of May, dramatically speeding up its schedule, but recognizing that the country must still be on the lookout for the virus.
The new date does not mean that all Americans will receive vaccines before May 31; problems with distribution and personnel mean that the administration of all doses could take much longer.
But the estimate, aided by a new partnership between major US drug makers, sets an optimistic target as millions of Americans wait to receive their first doses. The timeline accelerates the administration’s previous goal of having enough shots by the end of July by two months.
“That is progress,” he said. Biden in statements from the White House, warning that there could still be delays in receiving injections in the arms of Americans and suggesting that the country will not return to normal for much longer.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot lower our guard now to ensure that victory is inevitable, we cannot assume that. We must remain vigilant, act fast and aggressively, and take care of each other. This is how we are going to get ahead of this virus, get our economy working again and get back to our loved ones, “said Biden.
He also announced that he would direct states to prioritize teachers in their vaccination plans, again emphasizing a commitment to return students to classrooms amid a confusing administrative stance on when and how classrooms can be reopened.
“Let’s treat face-to-face learning as an essential service that it is,” he said, adding that his goal was for every teacher or school worker to receive at least the first dose of a vaccine by the end of March.
Biden Announces Merck and Johnson & Johnson Vaccination Partnership
Biden said drug company Merck will help make the coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. This will increase production capacity as the third licensed vaccine begins to roll out.
The agreement between two competing companies is unusual and underscores the urgency of manufacturing and distributing enough doses of the vaccine to inoculate as many Americans as possible.
Biden had previously promised that there will be enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end of July. However, he has also said that distribution challenges mean that it could be longer before everyone who wants a vaccine can receive it.
The White House said it was using the Defense Production Act to help equip two Merck facilities to make Johnson & Johnson’s product, including strengthening fill and finishing capacity when doses are placed in vials and increasing availability of the components of vaccines.
Merck, which is now adding to producing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, was working on its own injection
“Our goal builds on the incredible announcement that we now have three vaccines that the American people can access,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday ahead of Biden’s remarks.
Psaki said the process of bringing the two companies together was a “government-wide” effort that came after administration officials clearly saw that Johnson & Johnson would not meet its manufacturing targets.
The Washington Post reported in the first instance on the planned partnership between the two companies.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine on Saturday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended it for adults. 18 years and older. The distribution of the vaccine is already underway and the first injections are expected to be given this Tuesday.
The FDA had already authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in the United States, that of Pfizer / BioNTech and that of Moderna. Unlike those vaccines, Johnson & Johnson’s only requires one shot.
Merck had been working on developing its own COVID-19 vaccine. However, it stopped that work in late January after early studies showed immune responses were inferior to natural infection and other COVID-19 vaccines.
Merck is expected to dedicate two of its facilities to assist Johnson & Johnson, a management official said, in what constitutes a rare partnership between two competitors.
Johnson & Johnson’s Figures on Vaccination
Government officials expressed surprise and disappointment last month when it became clear that Johnson & Johnson would have fewer initial doses of its vaccine than originally planned due to production problems at its facilities.
The company said it had about 4 million doses of its vaccine ready to ship “immediately.” He further stated that he should have 20 million ready by the end of March.
“We have developed a broad partnership here in the US and in Europe and elsewhere in the world and we are very confident in our ability to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million doses in the first half of the year, on track. toward reaching 1 billion doses by the end of this year, ”Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson CEO and president, said Monday on CNN.
The announcement comes as departing federal officials warn against relaxing coronavirus restrictions. This, as progress against the pandemic appears to stagnate.
It worries about losing the ground gained
During a briefing by the White House Covid-19 Response Team on Monday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said she is “deeply concerned” about the possible change in the trajectory of the pandemic.
The number of new cases every day has been declining. However, the most recent average of new cases in seven days – about 67,200 people – represents an increase of just over 2% compared to the previous seven days. The most recent average of deaths in seven days has also increased by more than 2%.
“Please hear me clearly: at this level of variant spread cases, we risk completely losing our hard-won ground,” Walensky said Monday.
Walensky said the country can stem the increase in cases by wearing well-fitting masks and maintaining social distance. Also practicing good hand hygiene and avoiding crowds.
“Please stand firm in your conviction,” Walensky said. “Please continue to wear your well-fitting masks and carry out the other public health prevention actions that we know work,” he added.
CNN’s Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism