Merck to help produce rival J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine

03 Mars, 2021, 15:02 | Auteur: Adelaide Bullion
  • Victor Villegas 78 right receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot from a health care worker at a vaccination site in the Mission district of San Francisco Monday Feb. 8 2021

Merck said on Tuesday it will also receive up to $268.8 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a United States agency charged with developing drugs and vaccines.

The Biden administration had been criticized for claiming that the former Trump administration had exited without leaving them a plan for vaccinations against the coronavirus. Beyond simply getting the vaccines made and put into vials, they also have to get doses into arms, which is a massive undertaking involving everything from standing up mass-vaccination clinics to recruiting retired medical professionals to administer shots. At least some of the hurdles that the US now faces in terms of actually getting people vaccinated could still be there in May.

"We wrote our first story at The New York Times about a possible partnership between Merck and [Johnson & Johnson] for manufacturing on January 21", a reporter said to Psaki during Tuesday's press briefing.

"One of the things that I learned when I came into office was that Johnson & Johnson was behind in manufacturing and production", Biden said.

Drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson's newly approved coronavirus vaccine in an effort to expand supply more quickly, the White House said Tuesday. States will also receive 2.8 million doses of the J&J shot this week. President Biden announced J&J would be running its US facilities "24/7" to speed vaccine out the door.

Psaki said that an "across-the-administration effort" was required to get the two historic rivals to work together on the vaccines, even though conversations between J&J and Merck have been going on for months.

"There's a difference between conversations and it moving forward", she said. One would make the vaccine and the other would handle inserting the vaccine into vials and ensuring strict quality controls.

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The other two US-authorised vaccines produced by Pfizer Inc with partner BioNTech and Moderna Inc both require two shots a few weeks apart. Psaki announced Tuesday that the federal government would invoke the Defense Production Act to assist Johnson & Johnson and Merck.

The resulting agreement came with an invocation of the DPA that helped accelerate some J&J vaccine deliveries to May that had earlier been set for June, and also will provide assistance to Merck.

J&J has set up a global production network that includes brewing bulk vaccine at its Janssen facility in the Netherlands, and with a company in the U.S., Emergent BioSolutions, and another in India, Biological E. Ltd.

Merck initially abandoned its own COVID-19 vaccine plans. It said it would instead focus its work on developing treatments for COVID-19.

Merck last month said it was working on a deal to open up its manufacturing capacity to other vaccine makers.

"Great news, but stay vigilant", Biden said.

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