Merck to team up with rival Johnson & Johnson to produce COVID-19 vaccines, speed up supply

Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Posted at 8:28 AM, Mar 02, 2021

The Biden administration has confirmed that pharmaceutical company Merck will partner with one of its rivals, Johnson & Johnson, in order to speed up the production of J&J’s newly-approved COVID-19 vaccine.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki discussed the partnership during a briefing Tuesday, saying it speaks to the ability of the administration to bring the companies together.

“These are obviously two companies that have historically been competitors, so the fact that they’re coming together speaks to the ability of this administration, broadly, to bring them to the table and work to address the pandemic in the country. It was an across the administration effort,” said Psaki.

The FDA cleared the J&J vaccine over the weekend, making it the third COVID-19 vaccine to receive emergency approval. It’s also the first single-shot vaccine to be approved.

However, a vice president for Janssen — a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson — said during a House hearing last week that the company would fall short of its promise to deliver 10 million doses of its COVID-19 to the federal government by the end of February. Members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team have said that J&J only delivered about 4 million doses.

“When the president came into office and as soon as we learned that Johnson & Johnson was behind in manufacturing steps and efforts, we took steps to ensure we could expedite that and partner them with one of the world’s biggest manufacturers,” said Psaki on Tuesday.

Officials have said J&J faced "unexpected production issues" this week, but the company says it is still on track 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 Joe Biden is set to highlight the development in a speech Tuesday afternoon.