WASHINGTON (AP) – COVID-19 vaccine makers on Tuesday told Congress they could expect a big jump in dosing next month, and companies insist they can provide enough to vaccinate Americans by the summer.
By the end of March, Pfizer and Moderna expect a total of 220 million vaccine doses to be provided to the U.S. government, significantly more than the approximately 75 million delivered so far.
“We think we’re on the right track,” said Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna, outlining how the company stepped up production. “We think we’re in a very good place.”
That doesn’t count on a third vaccination, from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to get a green light from regulators soon. The Biden administration said on Tuesday that about 2 million doses of the vaccine are expected to be delivered in the first week, but the company told lawmakers it should provide enough quantities for a single dose to be given to 20 million people by the end of March.
Looking to the summer, Pfizer and Moderna are expected to deliver 300 million doses each, with J&J expected to provide an additional 100 million doses. That would be plenty enough to vaccinate all American adults, a goal set by the Biden government.
Vaccinations from two other manufacturers, Novavax and AstraZeneca, are underway and are expected to eventually add to these amounts.
When asked whether they faced a lack of raw materials, equipment, or funding that would overturn these schedules, all manufacturers expressed confidence that they had sufficient inventory and had already dealt with early production bottlenecks.
“At this point, I can confirm that we are not experiencing a shortage of raw materials,” said John Young, a Pfizer employee.
The House Subcommittee hearing came at a time when U.S. vaccinations are slow and accelerating further after recent disruptions caused by winter weather. More than 44 million Americans have received at least one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and the CDC says about 1.4 million have received their first or second dose daily in the past seven days.
But state health officials say the demand for vaccines still far exceeds the limited weekly deliveries provided by the federal government.
“The most pressing challenge right now is the lack of vaccine doses,” Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette said when she opened the hearing. “Some of the companies here are still few in the number of doses originally promised when they last testified before the subcommittee in July.”
Neither Pfizer nor Moderna met their delivery quotas for initial doses of vaccines at the end of last year. This prompted Congress to examine the vaccine development and delivery plans of the companies, which they said received $ 16 billion in federal funding.
“Significant amounts of U.S. tax dollars have been invested to produce the vaccine immediately after approval,” said David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican who asked executives why they could still not meet the demand for the vaccines.
Nearly 14% of Americans received at least a starting dose of the two-shot vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna.
The Trump government’s Warp Speed operation has focused most of its efforts on competing vaccines through research, development and manufacturing. However, there have been few plans or funding for coordinating vaccination campaigns at the state and local levels. This effort is now being accelerated with plans for mass vaccination sites and a growing supply of pharmacy chains.
New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone asked Vice President Richard Nettles J&J why the company fell short of the federal contracted schedule, which included delivering 12 million servings by the end of February.
Nettle only said that the company faced “significant challenges” due to its “extremely complex” manufacturing process. But he noted that the company is working with pharmaceutical manufacturer Sanofi to further expand production.
“It was an unprecedented effort to increase the production of a vaccine against a disease that didn’t even exist a year ago,” Nettles told lawmakers.
Even without interrupting production or supply, other issues could delay or block the U.S. from vaccinating 70-80% of the population – this is the critical threshold. necessary to neutralize the spread of COVID-19.
According to a recent poll, about one in three Americans say they will definitely or probably not get the vaccine from the Associated Press-NORC Public Affairs Research Center. Safety concerns were the causes most frequently cited by vaccine hesitation, despite the few serious side effects reported with currently available vaccines.
Associate Press Writer Zeke Miller contributed to this story.
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