Pharmaceutical Companies to Increase COVID Vaccine Supplies Soon

Manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine told Congress on Tuesday that they expect a big jump in dose delivery over the next month, and the companies insist they will be able to provide enough for most Americans to get vaccinated in the summer.

By the end of March, Pfizer and Moderna expect to have provided the US government with a total of 220 million doses of COVID-19, a large increase from the roughly 75 million doses shipped so far.

“We think we’re on the right track,” Moderna president Stephen Hoge said, describing the ways the company has increased production. “We think we are in a very good place.”

A third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Biotech unit, is expected to receive the green light from regulators soon. The Biden administration said Tuesday that it expects about 2 million doses of that single-shot vaccine to be shipped in the first week, and the company told lawmakers it should provide enough doses for 20 million people by the end of March. .

Heading into the summer, Pfizer and Moderna expect to complete the delivery of 300 million doses each, and J&J aims to provide an additional 100 million doses. That would be more than enough to vaccinate all American adults, the goal set by the Biden administration.

Two other manufacturers, Novavax and AstraZeneca, also have COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline and hope to add them to those totals eventually.

When deliberately asked if they face a shortage of raw materials, equipment or funds that would disrupt those schedules, all manufacturers expressed confidence that they had sufficient supplies and had already addressed some of the first bottlenecks in production.

“At this point, I can confirm that we are not seeing any shortages of raw materials,” said John Young, Pfizer’s chief commercial officer.

A House subcommittee hearing came as American vaccines continue to ramp up after a slow start and recent disruptions caused by winter weather. More than 44 million Americans have received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and about 1.4 million per day received a first or second dose during the past seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diseases.

But state health officials say demand for vaccines still far outstrips limited weekly shipments provided by the federal government.

“The most pressing challenge now is the lack of vaccine dose supplies,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, opening the hearing. “Some of the companies here are still short of the number of doses they initially promised to deliver when they last testified before this subcommittee in July.”

Both Pfizer and Moderna failed to meet delivery quotas for initial doses of their vaccines at the end of last year. That led Congress to scrutinize companies’ plans for vaccine development and delivery, which benefited from $ 16 billion in federal funding.

“A significant amount of US tax dollars was invested to be able to produce the vaccine immediately after approval,” said Rep. David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican, who asked executives why they were still unable to meet demand from the vaccines.

Nearly 14% of Americans have received at least one starting dose of the Pfizer and Moderna two-shot regimen vaccines.

The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed ​​focused most of its efforts on racing vaccines through research, development and manufacturing. But little planning or funding went into coordinating state and local vaccination campaigns. That effort is now accelerating with plans for mass vaccination sites and an ever-increasing supply distributed to pharmacy chains.

Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, questioned J&J vice president Richard Nettles about why the company has fallen behind the schedule outlined in its federal contract, which included delivering 12 million doses by the end of February. .

Nettles said only that the company has faced “significant challenges” due to its “highly complex” manufacturing process. But he noted that the company is partnering with pharmaceutical company Sanofi to further expand production.

“This has been an unprecedented effort to expand the manufacture of a vaccine against a disease that did not even exist more than a year ago,” Nettles told lawmakers.

Even without manufacturing or supply disruptions, other problems could delay or prevent the US from vaccinating enough Americans to achieve herd immunity, which is when so many people have protection against a virus that it runs out of potential hosts and leaves to spread to the whole community. it is protected. In the case of the coronavirus, experts say that the threshold to reach herd immunity could reach 90%.

About 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably will not get the vaccine, according to a recent survey by the Associated Press-NORC Public Affairs Research Center. Safety concerns were the most frequently cited reason for vaccinating vaccines, even though few serious side effects were reported with currently available vaccines.

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