USA TODAY US Edition
Some say ‘vaccine for all’ may even happen earlier
Experts weigh in on how the U.S. plans to make vaccine available to all adults by the end of May.
President Joe Biden says there will be enough COVID-19 vaccine available in May for every adult in the U.S., nearly two months earlier than his administration predicted three weeks ago, thanks to a deal brokered between pharmaceutical giants Merck and Johnson & Johnson.
That accelerated timeline doesn’t surprise experts.
In fact, some say the U.S. could reach that milestone by mid-April.
To get there, officials plan on 400 million doses from Moderna and PfizerBioNTech, enough to vaccinate 200 million people, plus an additional 100 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
That is more than enough for the nation’s 255 million adults.
The achievement “is incredibly exciting and gives me a lot of hope,” said Melissa McPheeters, a professor of health policy and biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“We are within view of turning a corner from a scarcity mind-set,” she said.
The administration made use of the Defense Production Act to forge the col
laboration between Merck and Johnson & Johnson, usually fierce rivals.
It also agreed to invest an additional $100 million to increase manufacturing of the vaccine itself and the vial-filling plants (called “fill and finish”), two of the biggest bottlenecks facing the J&J vaccine, White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt said Wednesday.
With the manufacturing boost provided by Merck, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to ship 20 million doses by the end of March as well as an additional 80 million by the end of May.
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech initially planned to deliver their 200 million doses each by the end of June, but manufacturing the vaccines, based on mRNA technology, turned out to be faster than anticipated, speeding the process up by a month, said Moncef Slaoui, head of the vaccine development effort under the Trump administration, told USA TODAY.
The accelerated pace of all three authorized vaccine development could mean doses will be abundantly available within a month, some experts say.
“I would guess that by mid- to late-April, all adults who want vaccine will be able to get it,” said Dr. Trudy Larson, dean of the school of community health sciences at the University of Nevada-Reno. “At that point, I would think a big push would start for getting all college-going students vaccinated.”