President Joe Biden said the US will receive enough Covid-19 vaccines by May. In fact, all American adults can now get access to vaccines within the first half of 2021. Previously, the Biden administration committed the availability of vaccines for all American adults by July. The rapid jump in schedules came after the US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine for coronavirus. In addition, pharmaceutical giant Merck agreed to help J&J manufacture the vaccine.
Priority to School Workers
Biden called on individual states to prioritize vaccinations for teachers, school staff, and child-care workers. Several teacher’s unions across the country insisted on vaccination as a condition for returning to schools. In fact, Biden said at least 30 states agreed to prioritize teachers.
The President remarked that the federal pharmacy program will prioritize teachers, and said the goal is to make sure teachers get at least one dose by the end of March. “We’re moving in the right direction. And today’s announcements are a huge step in our effort to beat this pandemic,” Biden said.
‘Collaboration We Saw In World War II’
Biden said the partnership to make the new J&J vaccine, which regulators cleared last Saturday, is the kind of collaboration the US witnessed during World War II. While the country will acquire enough supplies to accommodate all American adults, it’s not clear when everybody can get vaccinated.
The US recently achieved vaccination rates of 1.8 million doses a day. This is according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. As of last Monday, nearly 51 million Americans received at least one dose of vaccine, which is about 15.3% of the population.
Fight Far From Over
Biden noted that even with the additional supplies, “the fight is far from over” as hesitation over the vaccine grows. Consequently, officials said that they would launch a vaccine education program as the supply increases. With or without a vaccine, the administration urged Americans to continue wearing masks and taking precautions.
Meanwhile, some states started easing up on restrictions. Texas announced that businesses will operate at full capacity by March 10. The state will not require residents to wear masks in public. Also, Mississippi joined Texas and announced they were lifting the mask mandate by Wednesday.
Teacher Unions Hailed Prioritization
Teachers hailed Biden’s call to prioritize them for vaccination. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said this was a good step. “Vaccinations are a key ingredient to reopening schools safely,” she said. However, some state officials opposed vaccinating healthy teachers ahead of senior citizens or those with pre-existing conditions.
Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist who served on the COVID-19 Advisory Board, tweeted Tuesday her objection. Vaccinating teachers first will take vaccines away from higher-risk people and communities of color. “This is an ANTI-EQUITY move. Teachers skew white,” she tweeted. “So much for valuing Black and Brown’s people working in critical infrastructure jobs,” she later added.
J&J and Merck Collaboration
Merck will “enhance our production capacity so that we can supply beyond our current commitments,” according to Johnson & Johnson executives. Merck also reiterated their commitment to helping out with the supply of vaccines. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said a Merck facility will help fill-finish the vaccine. The federal government will also help prepare Merck’s facilities by helping upgrade its facilities for vaccine production.
Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to give Merck priority access to supplies. This includes the purchase of machinery, tubes, and filtration systems. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services said they released an initial investment of $105 million for Merck. This budget will help convert, upgrade and equip its facilities to acceptable standards. Earlier, Merck started on a program to develop coronavirus vaccines. However, they abandoned the project as they experienced slower progress and difficulties.
Watch the Reuters news video where President Joe Biden announces that all American adults will have enough vaccines by May this year:
Do you support the move to get vaccines available to all American adults by the end of May this year? Also, do you think Americans will line up and get the vaccines voluntarily? Let us know what you think about the program to vaccinate Americans as part of the fight against COVID-19. Leave your comments below.