Two Pharmaceutical Rivals Team Up on Vaccine

Merck will help Johnson & Johnson manufacture and distribute newly approved vaccine
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 2, 2021 11:20 AM CST
Big Pharma Giant Will Help Rival Make Vaccine
The first box containing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine heads down the conveyor to an awaiting transport truck at the McKesson facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., Monday, March 1, 2021.   (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, Pool)

Drugmaker Merck will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved coronavirus vaccine, per the AP. The announcement comes as the White House looks to speed the production of the single-dose vaccine. Officials have said J&J faced unexpected production issues with its vaccine and produced only 3.9 million doses ahead of its receiving emergency use authorization on Saturday. The company says it is on pace to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June. The assistance from Merck was expected to help J&J meet its production commitments and expand supply even further. President Biden is set to highlight the development in a speech Tuesday, as his administration now expects to have enough supply of the three approved vaccines to inoculate all eligible American adults by June—though actually delivering the injections could take longer.

One administration official said Merck would devote two plants to the production process. One would make the vaccine and the other would handle inserting the vaccine into vials and ensuring quality controls. Merck halted its own plans to develop a coronavirus vaccine earlier this year, finding that their candidates were generating an inferior immune system response compared with other vaccines. It said it would instead focus its work on developing treatments for COVID-19. The Wall Street Journal notes that it's not the first such deal among rivals amid the pandemic—Sanofi SA and Novartis AG are working with Pfizer and its vaccine partner BioNTech. Compared to the two-dose versions produced by Moderna and Pfizer, the J&J vaccine is less resource intensive to distribute and administer. (New Orleans' archdiocese is raising moral concerns about the J&J shot.)

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