US President, Joe Biden has announced that the country will have enough coronavirus vaccine doses for every adult in the country by the end of May, as production of a third vaccine is set to ramp up.
Speaking at a news conference at the White House, President Biden said he had invoked the Defence Production Act, a wartime production law passed by Congress during the Korean War, which will require pharmaceutical company Merck & Co to help produce a newly approved vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.
The US already had contracts with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to supply 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses which was enough to vaccinate all adults by the end of July. However the President revealed that the addition of a third viable vaccine and extra manufacturing capacity has pushed that timeline forward.
“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May. My hope is by this time next year we’re going to be back to normal.”President Biden
He also posited that Johnson & Johnson has committed to manufacture the new vaccine 24 hours a day, seven days a week, adding that the US Department of Defence will provide logistical support as Merck & Co equips two facilities to produce the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“Today we’re announcing a major step forward. Two of the largest healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the world, that are usually competitors, are working together on the vaccine.”
President Biden also directed US states to prioritise the vaccination of educators and childcare workers to help get schools and daycare centres reopened. Mr Biden said that while it is safe to reopen schools before staff have been vaccinated, “time and again, we’ve heard from educators and parents that have anxieties about that. Let’s treat in-person learning as the essential service that it is.”
He further required that starting next week, pharmacies receiving federal supplies of vaccines would also prioritise vaccinating educators.
“My challenge to all states, territories and the District of Columbia is this: We want every educator, school staff member, childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March.”
The US President has promised to administer 100 million COVID-19 jabs in his first 100 days in office. According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 102 million doses had been distributed across the country since the US vaccination programme began last year, while more than 78.6 million doses has been administered.
White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki also announced that the federal government was increasing supply of the Moderna and Pfizer 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 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.
There have been more than 28 million coronavirus cases in the US since the pandemic began and more than 500,000 deaths from the disease, making it by far the worst-affected country.
President Biden also used the platform to urge Democrats in the US Congress to pass his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which aims to boost the economy amid a pandemic-related downturn.