US to procure additional 100 million doses of Johnson Covid-19 vaccine

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WASHINGTON – The United States plans to double its order of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, procuring an additional 100 million doses, a White House official said.

President Joe Biden will make the announcement at a meeting with the chief executives of J&J and Merck & Co later in the day, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Merck has agreed to partner with J&J to produce its vaccine.

The United States has already paid over US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) for 100 million doses from J&J and had an option to purchase an additional 200 million doses.

Biden has sought to speed up the vaccination process since taking office on Jan 20. The pandemic has killed more than 528,000 in the United States alone.

J&J’s manufacturing has been slower than expected, and the company was not expected to be able to deliver any doses of its vaccine this week. It is expected to resume shipments later in March.

J&J has come up short on its shipments to the US this month, promising to deliver only 20 million doses of the 37 million it had originally promised to have ready by now.

Rival drugmaker Merck & Co will help with the final process of manufacturing called fill and finish – expected to be up and running in May – and the production of the vaccine itself.

J&J, which has committed to producing 1 billion doses this year, also said it is continuing to seek more manufacturing partners.

The US approved the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in December, and the companies have been working to increase their production since then. Pfizer and Moderna have committed to supplying the country with 120 million doses and 100 million doses, respectively, by the end of March. They have agreed to supply 300 million doses each by the end of July.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 123 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines had been distributed in the US and 93.7 million shots had been administered, according to data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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