Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies with Covid-19 vaccines licensed for emergency use in the United States, have committed to having a combined 220 million doses available for shipment by the end of March. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson, which could obtain emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine from the US Food and Drug Administration by the end of this week, has pledged to make 20 million available. of doses in the same period of time.
“If the emergency use authorization is received this week, we hope to contribute to ending this pandemic as soon as possible,” Dr. Richard Nettles, vice president of medical affairs at J&J, told lawmakers.
Nettles said the company is prepared to immediately ship about 4 million doses once the vaccine is licensed.
Executives from each of the vaccine makers, along with executives from AstraZeneca and Novavax, testified before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.
A fourth Covid-19 vaccine could be available in the US in April, when AstraZeneca could get FDA clearance for its vaccine. Dr. Ruud Dobber, executive vice president and president of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceutical business unit, said the company will immediately release 30 million doses upon authorization of the vaccine and up to 50 million doses by the end of April.
Pfizer hoped to deliver 30 to 40 million doses to the US by the end of 2020, but only hit the 40 million mark last week. Moderna had been projected to deliver 20 million doses to the US by the end of 2020, but it fell short of a week. When asked on Tuesday why they didn’t deliver on time, company executives said access to raw materials and making a product that had never been made before contributed to the problem.
“We did experience some problems initially with the initial surge of our vaccine,” said John Young, Pfizer’s chief commercial officer. “In particular, we saw some steps limiting commodity rates,” Young added.
“Ultimately, when we were trying to make those estimates, we never manufactured at this scale, so we had a lot to learn along the way,” said Dr. Stephen Hoge, President of Moderna. “If we look back, could we have started earlier in that process and aligned all the critical raw materials earlier? Could we have gotten there a little faster instead of the first week of January, the last week of December? Is it possible. Certainly in hindsight, and that’s 20-20 for us. “
The five drug companies have contracts with the US government to ultimately provide 1.1 billion doses of vaccine, enough to fully vaccinate nearly 600 million people, nearly twice the population of the US. Companies assured lawmakers that they are on track to meet those commitments.
All five said they did not foresee any shortages of raw materials that could get in the way.
“At this point, we think we have the supplies and consumables that we need,” Hoge said.
Moderna is seeking FDA approval to increase the number of doses in each of its Covid-19 vaccine vials from 10 to 15. When asked what the impact on the increase would be, Hoge said it would “substantially speed up delivery. “. and decrease the demand for some critical and high-demand raw materials.
“Obviously, any gain, for example filling more doses in a bottle, we will take,” Hoge said. “We need to get more doses into people’s arms faster.”
Beyond production and distribution, executives addressed questions about protection as new variants of the coronavirus spread.
“Adding a new strain to our vaccine is something we have experience with and we are able to do it very quickly,” said John Trizzino, Novavax Business and Commercial Director.
Pfizer is studying a possible third-dose booster injection.
“We think there is some emerging evidence that having higher antibody titers may be protective even against new variant strains,” Young said. “We are also in discussions with the FDA to potentially develop an improved vaccine against a new variant of concern, should it arise.”