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Biden Inherits a Vaccine Supply Unlikely to Grow Before April

  • January 21, 2021

Experts generally agree that the federal government should be locking in purchases of as many doses as possible because no one knows yet how long the vaccines will protect against the coronavirus, whether booster shots will be required and what threats mutations of the virus could pose.

From April and thereafter, the supply outlook brightens. Pfizer and Moderna have each committed to supply another 100 million doses by the end of July, and the companies might be able to provide even more. A week ago, Pfizer and BioNTech, its German partner, increased their global production target to 2 billion doses for the year from 1.3 billion doses.

Pfizer has delayed deliveries to European countries while it retools its Belgium factory to expand production. But at the firm’s factory in Kalamazoo, Mich., which supplies doses for Americans, production has quickened since the federal government ordered suppliers to prioritize Pfizer’s needs. The unexpected discovery that efficient syringes could extract a sixth dose from its vials also upped Pfizer’s estimates.

Moderna has also raised its production targets for the year to 600 million doses, up from 500 million.

Johnson Johnson is expected to announce results from its vaccine trial within days. If that vaccine proves effective, it could drastically speed up the pace of vaccinations because unlike Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccines, it requires only one dose. The company could apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration as soon as the end of the month. While its manufacturing has lagged, Johnson Johnson is trying to catch up to the goals detailed in the federal contract it signed last year.

The firm is now expected to deliver anywhere from several million to 12 million doses by the end of February, and 10 million to 20 million more doses at the end of March or the first week in April, according to several people familiar with the firm’s manufacturing output. The first batch would be produced at its Dutch factory, and later batches at a factory in Baltimore operated by its manufacturing partner, Emergent BioSolutions.

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