With the Biden government taking power with the promise to tame the worst public health crisis in a century, one pillar of its strategy is to significantly increase the supply of Covid-19 vaccines.
However, federal health officials and corporate executives agree that a lack of manufacturing capacity will make it impossible to increase the immediate supply of vaccines before April. According to experts, the administration should first focus on resolving the clutter of state and local vaccination centers, which have proven unable to manage the current flow of vaccines themselves.
President Biden’s goal of getting one million shots a day for the next 100 days is too low and will probably leave tens of millions of cans unused. The data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the nation has already reached this milestone pace. Approximately 1.1 million people were shot last Friday after receiving an average of 911,000 people a day for the past two days.
That was true even though C.D.C. Data shows that states and localities administer only 46 percent of the doses the federal government ships them. An efficient vaccination schedule could deliver millions more shots.
“I love that he set a goal, but a million doses a day?” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, director of the vaccine education center at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital and member of a federal vaccine advisory council.
“I think we can do better,” he said. “We have to do it if we really want to have access to this virus by summer.”
The speed of vaccination is critical not only to contain disease and death, but also to prevent the effects of more infectious forms of the virus. The C.D.C. has warned that a variant believed to be 50 percent more contagious could become the dominant source of infection in the United States by March. Although public health experts are optimistic that existing vaccines will be effective against this variant known as B.1.1.7, if enough people remain unvaccinated, this can increase the rate of infection.
The current vaccination efforts, which have little central direction, have created confusion and frustration. Some places complain about running out of cans while others have unused vials on the shelves.
Mr. Biden is asking Congress for $ 20 billion to add stadiums, pharmacies, doctor’s offices and mobile clinics to the vaccination centers. He also wants to hire 100,000 health care workers and use federal disaster aid to reimburse states and municipalities for vaccination costs.
Dr. Mark B. McClellan, director of the Duke University Health Center, said these steps should help remove the bottlenecks and “increase the number over a million doses a day and likely well beyond”.
The country’s vaccine supply for the first three months of the year is expected to be well in excess of what is needed to meet the administration’s goal. According to a senior administrator, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are on the rise and are now on track to dispense up to 18 million doses per week. Together they have promised to dispense 200 million cans by the end of March. A third vaccine maker, Johnson & Johnson, could also get more doses. If all of these supplies were used, the nation could fire well over two million shots a day on average.
When asked by a reporter on Thursday afternoon whether a million shots a day is enough, Mr. Biden said, “When I announced it, you all said it couldn’t. Come on, give me a break, man. It’s a good one Beginning. “
While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary from state to state, most doctors and residents of long-term care facilities will come first. If you want to understand how this decision is made, This article will help.
Life will only get back to normal once society as a whole receives adequate protection against the coronavirus. Once countries approve a vaccine, they can only vaccinate a few percent of their citizens in the first few months. The unvaccinated majority remain susceptible to infection. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines show robust protection against disease. However, it is also possible for people to spread the virus without knowing they are infected because they have mild or no symptoms. Scientists don’t yet know whether the vaccines will also block the transmission of the coronavirus. Even vaccinated people have to wear masks for the time being, avoid the crowds indoors and so on. Once enough people are vaccinated, it becomes very difficult for the coronavirus to find people at risk to become infected. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve this goal, life could approach a normal state in autumn 2021.
Yeah, but not forever. The two vaccines that may be approved this month clearly protect people from contracting Covid-19. However, the clinical trials that produced these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected with the coronavirus can spread it while they don’t have a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensively when the vaccines are introduced. In the meantime, self-vaccinated people need to think of themselves as potential spreaders.
The vaccine against Pfizer and BioNTech, like other typical vaccines, is delivered as a shot in the arm. The injection is no different from the ones you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported serious health problems. However, some of them have experienced short-lived symptoms, including pain and flu-like symptoms that usually last a day. It is possible that after the second shot, people will need to have a day off to work freely or go to school. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system’s encounter with the vaccine and a strong reaction that ensures lasting immunity.
No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to boost the immune system. This molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slide inside. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus that can stimulate the immune system. At any given moment, each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules that they produce to make their own proteins. As soon as these proteins are made, our cells use special enzymes to break down the mRNA. The mRNA molecules that our cells make can only survive a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a little longer, so the cells can make extra viral proteins and trigger a stronger immune response. However, the mRNA can hold for a few days at most before it is destroyed.
The government promises to buy more doses of vaccine as soon as they become available from vaccine manufacturers and use the Defense Production Act to spur production. But federal health officials and senior executives said these were longer-term goals as care was essentially fixed for the first three months of the year.
The Trump administration invoked the Defense Manufacturing Act to force suppliers to give priority to orders from Pfizer, Moderna and other vaccine manufacturers whose products are still in development. Health officials said it was unclear how the new government could use the law beyond that to boost production.
A senior federal health official who was involved in the government’s vaccination effort said Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s crash development program, has been reviewing all available manufacturing capabilities domestically and internationally and that there is little room left at this point was available for negotiations. The official said if the government had more cans available in the first quarter, they would have been purchased.
Experts generally agree that the federal government should buy as many doses as possible as no one knows how long the vaccines will protect against the coronavirus, whether booster vaccinations are needed and what threats mutations of the virus could pose.
From April and thereafter, the supply prospects will improve. Pfizer and Moderna are each committed to delivering an additional 100 million cans by the end of July, and the companies could potentially deliver even more. A week ago, Pfizer and BioNTech, their German partner, raised their global production target from 1.3 billion cans to 2 billion cans for the year.
Pfizer has delayed deliveries to European countries and upgraded its Belgian plant to expand production. However, at the company’s Kalamazoo, Michigan factory that supplies cans to Americans, production has sped up since the federal government ordered suppliers to prioritize Pfizer’s needs. The unexpected discovery that efficient syringes could extract a sixth dose from their vials also raised Pfizer’s estimates.
Moderna has also raised its production targets for the year from 500 million to 600 million cans.
Johnson & Johnson is expected to announce the results of its vaccine study within a few days. If this vaccine proves effective, it could dramatically speed up the pace of vaccinations as it only requires one dose, unlike the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. The company could apply for an emergency permit with the Food and Drug Administration as early as the end of the month. While manufacturing has lagged, Johnson & Johnson is trying to meet the goals set in last year’s federal contract.
The company is expected to drop several million to 12 million cans by the end of February and 10 to 20 million more cans by the end of March or the first week of April, according to several people familiar with the company’s manufacture. The first batch would be made in the Dutch factory and later in a Baltimore factory operated by their manufacturing partner Emergent BioSolutions.
In order to deliver the second batch so quickly, federal agencies may need to agree to postpone certain manufacturing tests of the vaccine from the Baltimore facility, according to people familiar with the situation. These discussions are now ongoing.
Johnson & Johnson is also in preliminary talks with Merck, a large American pharmaceutical company, about the use of its production lines, one of several ideas that federal health officials have discussed with the Biden transition team. Federal officials are keen to bolster the country’s vaccine manufacturing in the long term, and Merck’s facilities may be among the few with manufacturing capacity left.
Dr. However, McClellan, who sits on the Johnson & Johnson board of directors, said it would take months to adapt Merck’s factory to manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. A senior administration official predicted this could take until the end of the year.
Other vaccine manufacturers could also get through by mid-year. Novavax has worked to iron out the recently serious manufacturing issues that delayed its clinical trials. Moncef Slaoui, the scientific director of the federal vaccine development program in the Trump administration, said in a recent interview that Novavax could apply for an emergency permit in late April. The government has already ordered 110 million doses of the Novavax vaccine to be dispensed by the end of June, and Novavax believes it can achieve that goal.
Mr Biden has surrounded himself with new health officials charged with bringing vaccines from factories to recipients, including Dr. Bechara Choucair, the former Chicago health commissioner who is the White House’s vaccination coordinator; and Tim Manning, a former top Federal Emergency Management Agency officer who is now the supply coordinator. Dr. David Kessler, the former F.D.A. Commissioner, will lead the federal government’s vaccine development program at the Department of Health and Human Services, with a special focus on manufacturing.
After Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines proved highly effective in clinical trials late last year, the Trump administration debated whether to reconsider its strategy of supporting six different vaccine manufacturers and instead throw all its weight behind the tried and tested manufacturers. One senior administrator described “countless hours of debate” on the subject.
In the end, officials decided that it was important to keep targeting a broad vaccine portfolio, also because no one had figured out which vaccines would be best for children or most effective against emerging variants. They recommended that the Biden administration do the same.
Katie Thomas and Donald G. McNeil Jr. contributed to the coverage.