President Joe Biden announced Wednesday the U.S. is buying an additional 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.
The drugmaker is already obligated to supply 100 million doses to the federal government by the end of June. The additional vaccine would be delivered in the months following.
"I'm doing this because, in this war-time effort, we need maximum flexibility," Biden said. "There’s always a chance that we’ll encounter unexpected challenges or there will be a new need for vaccination effort. A lot can happen; a lot can change and we need to be prepared. And, of course, we need to match the miracle of science and the skill of manufacturing with the massive logistical undertaking of vaccinating over 300 million Americans."
President Biden made the announcement after meeting with CEOs from both Johnson and Johnson and Merck about their partnership to produce more COVID-19 vaccines.
Last week it was announced that drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival J&J’s newly approved coronavirus vaccine in an effort to expand supply more quickly.
"Two of the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies in the world — that are usually competitors — are working together on the vaccine," Biden said at the time. "This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II."
Biden added Wednesday it's clear this is a "historic, nearly unprecedented collaboration."
Meanwhile, the U.S. is set to receive enough doses of the three approved vaccines by the middle of May to cover all adults. The others approved in the U.S. are the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
The surplus from the additional 100 million J&J vaccines announced Wednesday will ensure supply to cover young adults and children, pending the result of safety and efficacy trials. They could also be used as potential "boosters" to further protect against emerging virus variants or be shared with allies overseas once Americans are protected.
Earlier in the day, the House voted to give final congressional approval to the landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. Biden is expected to sign the bill Friday.
A dominant feature of the bill is initiatives making it one of the biggest federal thrusts in years to assist lower- and middle-income families. Included are expanded tax credits over the next year for children, child care and family leave plus spending for renters, feeding programs and people’s utility bills.
The measure provides up to $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits and hundreds of billions for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, schools, state and local governments and ailing industries from airlines to concert halls. There is aid for farmers of color and pension systems, and subsidies for consumers buying health insurance and states expanding Medicaid coverage for lower earners.