President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. expects to take delivery of enough coronavirus vaccines for all adult Americans by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, as his administration announced that drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.
With the bolstered supply, Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers, and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program. He challenged states to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all teachers by the end of March as part of his administration's efforts to reopen more schools across the nation.
"We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” said Biden, who likened the partnership between the two drug companies to the spirit of national cooperation during World War II.
The announcement comes as the White House looks to speed the production of the single-dose J&J vaccine and accelerate the nation’s plans to reach “herd immunity” in the U.S. and begin restoring normalcy after the pandemic. Biden noted that vaccine supply was only one bottleneck toward that goal, and that the new challenge will be injecting doses into arms as swiftly as possible.
To that end, the Biden administration told governors Tuesday to prepare for their supplies of vaccine to continue to climb over the coming weeks. Additional doses are also heading toward a federally backed program to administer doses in more accessible retail pharmacies.
Those pharmacies will be key in getting the vaccines into the arms of teachers, which will help reopen schools to better educate students who have been at risk at falling behind during the pandemic.
"Let’s treat in-person learning as the essential service that it is," Biden said.
In other developments:
- Texas is lifting its mask mandate, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday, making it the largest state to end an order intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 42,000 Texans.
- Drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved coronavirus vaccine to try to expand supply more quickly.
- Democrats are sorting through lingering disagreements over emergency jobless benefits and other issues and preparing to commence Senate debate on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan.
- Emergency loans made to small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic have been added to a list of government programs considered at high risk of waste, fraud or mismanagement.
- A leader of the U.N.-backed project to deploy COVID-19 vaccines to the needy in both rich and poor countries acknowledges the rollout has gone slower than expected in some places because of issues with shipping and approval, but says “ultimately” all doses will be made available.
- Italian health officials say the variant of the coronavirus discovered in Britain is prevalent among the country's infected schoolchildren and warn that the curve of contagion is showing signs of “robust” uptick.
- China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press.
- The Caribbean is hunting for visitors and vaccines as it seeks to jump-start the stalled economy of one of the world’s most tourism-dependent regions.
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