On Tuesday, President Biden announced that the U.S. is on track to produce enough covid-19 vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May, two months earlier than the previous vaccine production timeline. That’s right folks! YOU get a vaccine, and YOU get a vaccine, and YOU get a vaccine—that is, if states are able to actually distribute enough vaccines before the new covid-19 variants spreading throughout the country could cause another surge in cases.
In order to meet this goal, the Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act in order to increase the rate of production of the new Johnson & Johnson covid-19 vaccine that was authorized for emergency use over the weekend. Biden also announced that J&J would be partnering with pharmaceutical archrival Merck in vaccine production, with Merck dedicating two of its facilities to the efforts.
Although some people are wary of the lower efficacy rates of the J&J covid-19 vaccine—which is only 72% in the United States, lower than the approximately 95% efficacy rates of both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines—experts are clear that it is not a weaker vaccine. “If you go to a place and you have J&J, and that’s the one that’s available now, I would take it,” said Dr. Fauci over the weekend. Data shows that during clinical trials, the J&J vaccine prevented 100% of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths, which is certainly nothing to turn your nose up at. In addition, the fact that the J&J vaccine only requires one shot and can be stored at a normal refrigerator temperature makes its authorization a potential game-changer for helping the U.S. reach the magical green pasture of herd immunity.
During his remarks, Biden also announced that he would be instructing states to prioritize teachers and other school staff in their vaccination schedules as part of his commitment to reopening schools. Specifically, the President called for every school employee and child care worker to receive at least one vaccine dose by the end of March—a lofty goal, but one that, for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, is actually within reach.