Biden to announce that Merck will work with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture coronavirus vaccine

President Joe Biden is expected to announce Tuesday that Merck & Co. will p...

Posted: Mar 2, 2021 9:52 AM

President Joe Biden is expected to announce Tuesday that Merck & Co. will partner with Johnson & Johnson to help manufacture J&J's coronavirus vaccine, administration officials familiar with the matter said, increasing production capacity as the third authorized shot begins going into arms.

The arrangement between two competitors is unusual and underscores the urgency in manufacturing and distributing enough vaccine doses to inoculate as many Americans as possible.

Biden is expected to address the partnership during his remarks at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, hailing the partnership as a way to quickly jumpstart the sluggish vaccine production. Biden has promised enough vaccine doses for 300 million Americans by the end of July, though he has also said distribution challenges mean it could be longer before everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to receive one.

The planned partnership was first reported by The Washington Post.

Some details of the arrangement, including how Merck's facilities will be used and whether they will require retrofitting to produce another company's product, are still emerging. Officials suggested Biden would use the Defense Production Act to help Merck secure the required equipment and supplies to switch its facilities over to make the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Saturday, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended it for adults age 18 and older. The vaccine's distribution is already underway and first shots are expected Tuesday.

Two Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have already been authorized for emergency use in the United States by the FDA. Unlike those vaccines, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine only requires one shot.

Merck had been working on developing its own Covid-19 vaccine, but discontinued its effort at the end of 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 helping Johnson & Johnson, an administration official said, in a rare partnership between two competitors.

Administration officials expressed surprise and disappointment last month when it became clear Johnson & Johnson would have fewer initial doses of its vaccine than originally planned because of production issues at its facilities.

The company said it had about 4 million doses of its vaccine ready to ship "immediately," and said it should have 20 million ready by the end of March.

"We've developed an extensive partnership here in the United States and Europe and other places around the world and we're 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 en route to a billion doses by the end of this year," Alex Gorsky, the CEO and chairman of Johnson & Johnson, said Monday on CNN.

The announcement comes as federal health officials warn against relaxing coronavirus restrictions as gains against the pandemic appear to plateau.

During a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing Monday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said she is "deeply concerned" about the potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic.

While the number of new daily cases had been declining, the most recent seven-day average of new cases -- at about 67,200 people -- represents an increase of a little more than 2% compared to the prior seven days. The most recent seven-day average of deaths has also increased more than 2%.

"Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variant spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained," Walensky said Monday.

Walensky said the country can stop the surge of cases in this country by wearing a mask that fits, maintaining social distance, practicing good hand hygiene and avoiding crowds.

"Please stay strong in your conviction," Walensky said. "Continue wearing your well-fitting mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work."

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1389443

Reported Deaths: 25592
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook55642910467
DuPage924131318
Will769631033
Lake683861018
Kane59457808
Winnebago34140507
Madison30959526
McHenry29200295
St. Clair28348519
Peoria23455343
Champaign21112155
Sangamon19103240
McLean18560188
Tazewell17232305
Rock Island15247329
Kankakee14562217
Kendall1328599
LaSalle12789250
Macon10998211
DeKalb10123121
Vermilion10035143
Adams8694127
Williamson7609134
Whiteside7199174
Boone683878
Ogle621183
Grundy598778
Clinton578991
Coles5774100
Knox5647154
Jackson510165
Henry507970
Livingston489991
Woodford484482
Stephenson482785
Macoupin478388
Effingham476972
Franklin454278
Marion4515117
Jefferson4424122
Monroe438694
Lee419354
Randolph416587
Fulton405359
Logan398364
Morgan393482
Christian383975
Montgomery379374
Bureau378484
Fayette322955
Perry320360
Iroquois314167
McDonough291051
Jersey271752
Douglas260736
Saline260457
Lawrence241127
Shelby232838
Union228241
Crawford214525
Bond208724
Cass203527
Ford189048
Warren184349
Clark183933
Jo Daviess182724
Pike182153
Wayne181253
Hancock180931
Carroll178537
Edgar177040
Richland176940
White170626
Washington164825
Moultrie163128
De Witt157229
Mason154245
Piatt152414
Clay149743
Mercer149334
Johnson148116
Greene145234
Massac135940
Wabash135612
Cumberland130219
Menard125012
Jasper116718
Marshall108119
Hamilton84116
Schuyler7817
Brown7326
Pulaski7007
Stark64824
Edwards57712
Calhoun5302
Henderson52814
Scott4891
Putnam4863
Alexander47411
Gallatin4704
Hardin39112
Pope3284
Unassigned512433
Out of IL350

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 751526

Reported Deaths: 13799
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033281788
Lake557151010
Allen41710692
St. Joseph36998565
Hamilton36604417
Elkhart29413461
Tippecanoe22914227
Vanderburgh22559400
Porter19359326
Johnson18477389
Hendricks17689317
Clark13228195
Madison13158344
Vigo12625253
LaPorte12420221
Monroe12211176
Delaware10968198
Howard10337225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8577147
Bartholomew8172157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7812180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6972103
Morgan6765141
Dubois6221118
Marshall6211116
Cass6017110
Henry5902110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509176
Shelby501796
Lawrence4745122
Gibson445094
Clinton442755
Harrison441775
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438490
Whitley406643
Huntington403181
Steuben400259
Miami395269
Jasper388654
Knox376391
Putnam373260
Wabash362383
Ripley347270
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332253
Daviess3033100
Wells295381
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273172
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246136
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234631
Starke228058
Fountain221048
Sullivan214643
Owen212158
Fulton203042
Jay200932
Carroll193720
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166446
Parke149616
Pike138134
Blackford136232
Pulaski120747
Newton114336
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101914
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420