COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase
Coronavirus vaccine developers told House members Tuesday they plan to dramatically increase deliveries in the coming weeks.
Executives from Pfizer and Moderna, the only two companies that have so far received emergency vaccine authorization from the U.S. government, said they will be able to deliver more than 130 million additional doses combined by the end of March.
The companies said they are no longer facing shortages of raw materials and have largely solved the manufacturing challenges that limited the initial production and resulted in bottlenecks, as demand has far outstripped supply.
Combined, the two companies have contracts to provide 600 million doses, which they say will be ready by the end of July.
Between every company with which the U.S. has contracts, both the Trump and Biden administrations have secured more than 1 billion preordered doses, enough vaccinate the entire U.S. population almost twice over.
“Some of the companies here today are still short of the number of doses they promised to initially deliver when they testified before this subcommittee in July,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations.
DeGette added that “many of the companies received significant federal investment to build their manufacturing capacity last year even as clinical trials were ongoing.”
According to a Government Accountability Office report last month, the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed had obligated approximately $13 billion for vaccine development and manufacturing, including funding to boost existing capacity.
John Young, Pfizer’s chief business officer, told lawmakers the company has shipped approximately 40 million doses to date.
But Young said the company is on track to make a total of 120 million doses available for shipment by the end of March, and an additional 80 million doses by the end of May.
“Because of the dire need to vaccinate more people, we have ramped up production of doses,” he said, noting that the company has invested significantly in domestic manufacturing sites.
The investment is necessary because the company will need to increase its deliveries from approximately 4 million to 5 million doses per week at the beginning of February to more than 13 million doses per week by the middle of March.
Johnson & Johnson, which has not yet received emergency authorization for its vaccine, said it plans to have enough doses for more than 20 million Americans by the end of March.
That vaccine, unlike those from Pfizer and Moderna, requires only one dose, so 20 million doses would completely vaccinate as many people.
Richard Nettles, vice president of U.S. medical affairs for Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen infectious diseases and vaccines unit, said the company will have 4 million doses ready to ship immediately if and when the shot is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
An FDA advisory committee is meeting Friday to consider the company’s application, and emergency authorization could come soon after.
An administration official confirmed that White House officials told governors on a call Tuesday that the federal government would ship about 2 million doses to states and other jurisdictions as soon as next week, contingent upon an emergency use authorization. Smaller shipments would occur in the following two weeks, with numbers increasing by the end of March to reach the promised 20 million mark.
The Johnson & Johnson targets are more optimistic than Biden administration officials have previously acknowledged. Earlier this month, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said the U.S. expected to receive only a “few million” Johnson & Johnson doses when it is initially cleared for use.
At the same time, the Biden administration is also increasing its allocation to states.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that states will now receive 14.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines per week, an increase of about 1 million doses per week.
Psaki said Zients made the announcement on a call with governors Tuesday morning.
Still, getting vaccines delivered is not the same as getting them administered. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, a little more than 65 million doses have been administered, while 82 million doses have been delivered.
Updated on Feb. 24 at 7:36 a.m.
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