Biden Administration Brokers Deal To Bolster Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Production

(Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
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The Biden administration will announce Tuesday that it has brokered a deal between pharmaceutical giants Merck and Johnson & Johnson to help facilitate production of the latter’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to multiple reports.

Officials within the administration began searching for additional manufacturing capacity for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine soon after President Joe Biden took office out of concern that the company had fallen behind in production, according to The Washington Post. They reportedly approached Merck, one of America’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, and struck a deal. (RELATED: ‘Either Not Telling The Truth Or Mentally Gone’: Trump Rips Biden Over Vaccine Claim)

Merck failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine and will now instead dedicate two U.S. facilities to helping produce Johnson & Johnson’s shot. One will reportedly handle the “fill-finish” stage of the process in which the vaccine vials are filled and packaged, and the other will produce the vaccine itself, potentially increasing production capacity twofold.

The precise impact the deal will have on vaccine production is not yet known, as it could take multiple months for Merck to fully integrate the two facilities into the production process, according to one source who spoke to The Post. Administration officials did reportedly indicate that Biden could use the Defense Production Act to assist Merck in securing supplies and equipment needed to prepare its facilities.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine was granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday, the final clearance needed before distribution could begin. It is the first single-dose vaccine available on the U.S. market, and can be stored at refrigerated temperatures, rather than freezing temperatures needed for other vaccines. (RELATED: Is Fauci Right? Is America The ‘Worst’ When It Comes To COVID-19?)

The company has roughly 4 million doses ready to ship immediately, but has been searching for partners to help increase production capacity going forward. It is contracted to provide 100 million doses to the U.S. by the end of June and expects to ship 20 million shots by the end of March, according to the Post.