President Biden on Tuesday announced that drug giant Merck will help manufacture the newly approved single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “Two of the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies in the world, that are usually competitors, are working together on the vaccine,” Biden said. “This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II.”
Biden also said that Johnson & Johnson manufacturing facilities will begin to operate around the clock and that he invoked the Defense Production Act to equip two Merck facilities to manufacture the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well.
“We are now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” Biden said. That’s two months earlier than the timeframe the administration had laid out just weeks ago.
The White House also said Tuesday that it will boost the number of vaccine doses being sent to states each week from 14.5 million to 15.2 million, up from 8.6 million when President Biden took office in January. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that states are also receiving 2.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, bring the total to 18 million doses.
Biden said the increased vaccine supply would help reopen schools safely and directed all states to prioritize vaccinations for pre-K to 12th grade teachers, challenging them to deliver at least one shot to every teacher, school staff member and child care worker by the end of March.
Biden urged all Americans to stay vigilant against the virus. “Now is not the time to let up,” he said. “Now is not the time to let our guard down.” And he called on the Senate to pass his Covid relief plan. “Despite the optimism, without new resources, our entire effort will be set back,” he said. “The bottom line is we need the American Rescue Plan now.”