Coronavirus: US to secure 100M more doses of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine, Biden says

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced his intent to secure 100 million more doses of the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.

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Update 3:50 p.m. ET March 10: At a news conference with Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky and Merck CEO Ken Frazier, Biden said he’s directed officials to purchase another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which Merck is helping to produce.

“I’m doing this because in this wartime effort we need maximum flexibility,” Biden said Wednesday. “There’s always a chance that we’ll encounter unexpected challenges or there’ll be new need for a vaccine effort of vaccination effort.”

Original report: The announcement is expected to come during a virtual meeting Wednesday afternoon between Biden and the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck, according to The New York Times. The two companies, typically competitors, are working together to ramp up production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a deal announced last week by the White House.

Biden previously said that the partnership will allow the U.S. to stock enough vaccine supply to inoculate every adult in America by the end of May.

Unidentified senior officials told the Times that the 100 million additional doses to be secured will be used to account for any “unpredictable challenges, from the emergence of dangerous virus variants to manufacturing breakdowns that could disrupt vaccine production.”

An unidentified source told CNN on Wednesday that officials were still negotiating the timeline for when the doses will be made available.

Manufacturing of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been slower than expected, Reuters reported, with shipments of the vaccine expected to resume later in March.

As of Tuesday morning, 123.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered nationwide, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 61 million Americans have received at least one dose of one of the available COVID-19 vaccines, including 32.1 million people who have been fully vaccinated, officials said.

The U.S. continues to lead the world with the highest number of COVID-19 cases. As of Wednesday morning, 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with the viral infection, resulting in nearly 528,000 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Globally, 117.6 million COVID-19 cases have been reported, resulting in 2.6 million deaths.