Supply of COVID-19 Vaccine Expected to Substantially Increase By Spring

In the dark of February, pharmacists might worry that they will never get enough doses of COVID-19 to meet demand or their mission to vaccinate as many Americans as possible. The situation should look much better by spring. Here is what occurring that should increase vaccine supply substantially.

WASHINGTON, DC – Pharmacists who anxiously await additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine have reason to be optimistic, despite weather delays and other glitches.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DOD) have purchased an additional 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from both Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. to help meet demand for COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, according to a press release.

HHS advises that the orders placed the second week of February bring the vaccine doses purchased by the U.S. government from these two companies to 600 million doses. That would be enough to fully vaccinate 300 million people with two doses each.

The White House later announced that states can immediately expect a moderate increase in coronavirus vaccine supply as manufacturers continue to scale up production. The weekly supply of vaccines being sent to states will grow from 11 million doses to 13.5 million, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. At the same time, the shipment to federal pharmacy “partners” was planned to double from 1 million to 2 million, she said.

According to federal officials, each company is delivering 300 million doses in regular increments through the end of July 2021. U.S.-based manufacturing capacity will be leveraged by the pharma companies to fill, finish and ship vials as the bulk material is produced, according to the announcement.

“As the president directed, we are expanding our supply of COVID vaccines to protect people as quickly as possible,” explained Acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran. “These purchases will allow us to accelerate our vaccination efforts to get shots into the arms of the American people. While we rapidly ramp up the pace of vaccinations, I encourage everyone to take actions now to protect themselves and their families: wear a mask, wash your hands often, and practice physical distancing.”

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on February 26 to discuss the request for emergency use authorization (EUA) for a COVID-19 vaccine from Janssen Biotech Inc.

“A public discussion by the advisory committee members about the data submitted in support of safety and effectiveness of Janssen Biotech Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine will help ensure that the public has a clear understanding of the scientific data and information that FDA will evaluate in order to make a decision about whether to authorize this vaccine,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “The FDA remains committed to keeping the public informed about our evaluation of the data for COVID-19 vaccines, so that the American public and medical community have trust and confidence in FDA-authorized vaccines.” 

At the beginning of the month, Johnson & Johnson announced that Janssen Biotech, Inc., had submitted an application to the FDA requesting Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its investigational single-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The EUA submission is based on topline efficacy and safety data from the Phase 3 ENSEMBLE clinical trial, demonstrating that the investigational single-dose vaccine met all primary and key secondary endpoints.

"Today's submission for Emergency Use Authorization of our investigational single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is a pivotal step toward reducing the burden of disease for people globally and putting an end to the pandemic," said Paul Stoffels, MD, Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson. "Upon authorization of our investigational COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, we are ready to begin shipping. With our submission to the FDA and our ongoing reviews with other health authorities around the world, we are working with great urgency to make our investigational vaccine available to the public as quickly as possible."

J&J says it anticipate, upon approval, supplying1million doses of the vaccine, which was found to be 72% effective in the United States and 66% effective overall, in the first half of 2021. The product can be stored in a regular refrigerator.

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s “Today” show earlier this month that the thought the United States could start letting the general public have access to COVID-19 vaccines in April and have the supply to vaccinate most Americans by the end of the summer.

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