PUBLISHED WED, MAR 10 20218:37 AM EST By Berkeley Lovelace Jr. @BERKELEYJR
The U.S. plans to buy 100 million additional doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, two administration sources told NBC News.
President Joe Biden will announce the plans Wednesday during a White House meeting with executives from J&J and Merck.
J&J currently has a deal with the U.S. government to provide 100 million doses by the end of June. The federal government shipped out nearly 3.9 million doses of the single-shot vaccine last week and says it plans to distribute 16 million more by the end of this month.
The announcement comes as the administration works to ramp up the production of J&J’s vaccine after it learned earlier in the year that the company had fallen behind in vaccine production.
The New York Times first reported in January that unexpected manufacturing delays would lead to a reduced initial supply of J&J’s drug if it were given emergency authorization.
Last week, Biden announced that pharmaceutical giant Merck would help make J&J’s Covid vaccine. Under the arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the U.S. to J&J’s vaccine. One will make the vaccine and the other will provide “fill-finish” services, when the vaccine is placed in vials.
Europe’s drug regulator on Thursday approved the one-dose coronavirus vaccine created by Johnson & Johnson, adding another weapon in the armory being used to fight Covid-19.
The vaccine has the added benefit of only requiring a single dose and can be stored in most standard refrigerators at temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (or roughly 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), making it easier and cheaper to transport and store.
Once supplies start to be delivered, the shot could greatly bolster Europe’s struggling immunization program and is the fourth to be approved by the EMA. Two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have also been approved.
While it’s easier to distribute, the vaccine has not been found to be as effective as Pfizer and Moderna’s shots at preventing Covid infection. Nonetheless, the data shows it offers a decent level of protection: Clinical trial data from the U.S. has shown J&J’s vaccine is 72% effective at guarding against moderate to severe Covid (although it was found to be less potent in trials elsewhere, giving it an overall effectiveness of 66%), compared with about 95% for the other two vaccines.
LONDON — The European Union has made its first intervention into the supply of coronavirus vaccines, with Italy blocking a shipment of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to Australia on Thursday.
Reuters reported, citing two sources, that British pharma giant AstraZeneca had requested permission from Rome to ship around 250,000 doses from its Anagni, Italy, plant. However, the Italian government refused. The Financial Times also reported the same story and an EU official, who preferred to remain anonymous, later confirmed the move to CNBC.
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca declined to comment when contacted by CNBC. A spokesperson for the Italian Foreign Ministry wasn’t immediately available for comment.
In January, the European Union placed temporary controls on the export of vaccines made inside the bloc, following a spat with AstraZeneca and wider supply issues. The EU has been under pressure for what critics describe as a slow rollout of Covid vaccines.
The European Commission, the institution leading the purchase agreements, has been blamed for not securing enough vaccines, and the region’s medical agency has been criticized for taking too long to approve inoculations that have received the green light elsewhere.
The controls will last until the end of March and give powers to EU member states to reject authorizing exports if the vaccine makers do not honor contracts.