Pharmaceutical companies will need to increase their combined deliveries and produce 75 million doses to reach their target of 220 million injections by March 31.
Drug companies told lawmakers Tuesday that they project a significant increase in vaccine deliveries that will result in 140 million more doses over the next five weeks. They further said that they have solved manufacturing challenges and are in a position to overcome shortages that have hampered the nation’s fight against coronavirus.
“The United States and all other countries need more doses faster,” John Young, Pfizer’s chief commercial officer, told members of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce investigation and oversight subcommittee.
But achieving an increase on that scale is still overwhelming. Pfizer and Moderna, the companies with the only vaccines licensed so far, will need to increase their combined deliveries and produce 75 million doses to meet their promised target of 220 million injections by March 31.
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That’s a target of 28 million doses per week on average, much higher than your performance so far. The Biden administration told governors Tuesday that the doses assigned to states would rise from 13.5 million to 14.5 million a week, and also directed 2.1 million doses to pharmacies, according to people who participated in a weekly call from the White House and they spoke on condition of anonymity.
If companies succeed in meeting their projections, it would usher in the end of a period of deep frustration and mark more rapid progress against a pandemic that has claimed 500,000 lives in the United States. The slower-than-expected launch of the vaccine has hampered progress toward vaccinating the 70 to 80 percent of the US population of 330 million that is required to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.
The federal government has spent about $ 16 billion on clinical and laboratory development, manufacturing start-up, and vaccine pre-order placement.
“Many of these companies received significant federal investment to develop their manufacturing capacity last year while their clinical trials were still ongoing so that we could rapidly deliver millions of vaccines as soon as they were licensed,” said Rep. Diana DeGette.
Pfizer and Moderna, which make mRNA vaccines, did not meet delivery schedules set by the Trump administration in December, when their vaccines received emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration. But both companies are expressing confidence in their latest promises after continuing to invest in manufacturing and constantly advancing production. Combined, the two companies have contracts to provide 600 million doses, which they say will be ready by the end of July.
Pfizer, which partnered with BioNTech (of Germany) on the production of its vaccine, has set an aggressive schedule to push deliveries in the coming weeks, according to Young’s previous testimony. The company has invested money in doubling batch sizes and adding manufacturing suites, as well as manufacturing its own supply of crucial raw materials called lipids and creating its own end-fill capability to put batches of vaccine into vials for shipment.
Pfizer reported last week during President Biden’s visit to its Kalamazoo, Michigan, manufacturing facility that it had cut manufacturing time from 110 days to about 60 days.
Pfizer also benefited from an FDA decision that recognized “overfilling” in its vials as a sixth dose, resulting in a 20 percent increase in its deliveries.
The uneven weekly production is one reason the Biden administration has issued no new promises beyond its initial goal of delivering 100 million injections within the president’s first 100 days, despite the more ambitious promises of the drug makers, according to a senior administration official who, like other officials, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Two other officials in the Biden administration said 220 million doses of vaccines were unlikely to be distributed by the end of March, even if close to that total were allocated to states and other jurisdictions without having been shipped by then. One official said that just 200 million doses was a more realistic estimate.
The potential for a hint of supply as the first quarter draws to a close late next month could represent a smaller-scale repeat of the problems that plagued the Trump administration late last year. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated at a meeting of a CDC advisory panel on Dec. 20 that 40 million doses would be delivered in December, 60 million in January and 100 million in February, projections that were much higher than reality.
Released CDC data indicates that about 75 million doses had been administered as of Monday, about 10 million fewer doses than the companies said in their prepared testimony they provided.
Federal officials said the doses administered were divided roughly evenly between the two companies. About 44 million people have received injections, and nearly 20 million of those people have received both necessary injections, for a total of approximately 64 million injections.
Pfizer’s promise is to provide 120 million doses by the end of March, while Moderna has said it will supply 100 million doses by then. To meet its goal, Pfizer would have to release more than 2 million doses a day, or more than 14 million a week, over the next five weeks.
The company is currently providing about 9 million doses per week, according to one of the federal officials involved in the vaccine effort., with the expectation that it can climb steadily to around 13 million doses per week by early April. Moderna is expected to stabilize at about 10 million a week, the official said.
Text taken and translated from The Washington Post
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