Biden will invoke Defense Production Act to assist the Merck-Johnson & Johnson vaccine partnership

President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. will have enough vaccine for every adult in the country by the end of May.

Biden made the announcement on the heels of green-lighting the Defense Production Act to be used to assist Merck & Co with manufacturing Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. 

As it’s a one-dose vaccine, with Johnson & Johnson, more people can be vaccinated with fewer doses. 

Biden also announced an initiative to get schools reopened by prioritizing the vaccination of K-12 teachers and staff using the federal pharmacy program during a brief speech from the White House’s State Dining Room on Tuesday. 

‘When we came into office the prior administration had contracted for not nearly enough vaccine to cover adults in America,’ he said pointing a finger at former President Donald Trump. 

‘We rectified that about three weeks ago and were able to say that we’ll have enough vaccine supply for adults by the end of July.

‘I’m pleased to announce today as a consequence of the stepped up process that I’ve ordered and just outlined, this country will have enough vaccine supply – I’ll say it again – for every adult in America by the end of May. That’s progress,’ the president added.  

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday from the White House's State Dining Room that ther would be enough vaccine for every American adult by the end of May - and announced prioritizing K-12 educators and staff for vaccines

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday from the White House's State Dining Room that ther would be enough vaccine for every American adult by the end of May - and announced prioritizing K-12 educators and staff for vaccines

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday from the White House’s State Dining Room that ther would be enough vaccine for every American adult by the end of May – and announced prioritizing K-12 educators and staff for vaccines

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the Defense Production Act will be used to ensure that two Merck facilities are able to produce Johnson & Johnson's vaccine

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the Defense Production Act will be used to ensure that two Merck facilities are able to produce Johnson & Johnson's vaccine

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the Defense Production Act will be used to ensure that two Merck facilities are able to produce Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine 

President Joe Biden speculated that the pandemic could be largely over by March 2022 telling reporters Tuesday that his hope was 'by this time next year we're going to be back to normal'

President Joe Biden speculated that the pandemic could be largely over by March 2022 telling reporters Tuesday that his hope was 'by this time next year we're going to be back to normal'

President Joe Biden speculated that the pandemic could be largely over by March 2022 telling reporters Tuesday that his hope was ‘by this time next year we’re going to be back to normal’ 

It comes as the country’s death toll from COVID-19 reaches 515,899 with 28.7million Americans infected. 

And as Texas and Mississippi announced that mask mandates in the state will be lifted. 

The president also predicted on Tuesday that by March 2022 the pandemic could be largely over. 

‘I’ve been cautioned not to give an answer to that because we don’t know for sure,’ Biden said as he was leaving the podium. ‘But my hope is by this time next year we’re going to be back to normal, and before, that’s my hope.’  

The Biden administration has promised that U.S. states will be receiving 15.2 million  coronavirus vaccine doses per week. 

That is a nearly five percent increase from the current 14.5 million doses states are receiving and a 76 percent increase from the 8.6 million when President Joe Biden took office, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. 

The U.S. has now fully vaccinated about 7.7 per cent of the population, with about 15 per cent getting at least their first dose. 

Vaccine rates have steadily ticked up from about about 1 million per day immediately after Biden took office, then reaching 1.5 million, and hitting 2 million for three consecutive days between February 26 and 28. 

However, the effects of a winter storm briefly knocked down distribution over the past couple of weeks. 

As a result, the U.S. is now giving a 7-day rolling average of 1.8 million shots a day. 

The Centers for Disease Control said it had distributed 102 million doses and that 79 million had been administered. 

The total included both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines as the new J&J vaccine gets distributed. Nearly 52 million people have now received one or more vaccine doses.

Earlier at the White House briefing, press secretary Psaki explained that the U.S. government is facilitating the partnership between Johnson & Johnson and Merck in ‘several key ways.’         

‘Including invoking the Defense Production Act to equip two Merck facilities to the standards necessary to safely manufacture the vaccine,’ Psaki explained.  

She also said the Defense Department would provide ‘daily logistical support’ to assist Merck’s and Johnson & Johnson’s efforts.  

Biden echoed those points.  

The news of the ‘historic partnership’ between the two companies broke earlier Tuesday.    

Biden applauded Johnson & Johnson and Merck for being ‘good corporate citizens.’ 

‘This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II,’ the president noted. 

‘As I’ve always said, this is a wartime effort and every action has been on the table, including putting together breakthrough approaches,’ Biden said. 

Biden also took time in his speech to ask Americans to stay vigilant. 

‘Now there is light at the end of the tunnel,’ he assured those watching. ‘But we cannot let our guard down now or assure victory is inevitable. We can’t assume that. We must remain vigilant, act fast and aggressively, and look out for one another.’ 

‘That’s how we’re going to get ahead of this virus, get our economy going again and get back to our loved ones,’ he continued, adding, ‘please, please, it’s not over yet. Great news, but stay vigilant.’ 

Biden’s remarks came after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced earlier Tuesday that his state, which was just hobbled by winter weather, would be ‘OPEN 100%.’

‘EVERYTHING,’ the Republican governor said, adding that he had ended the statewide mask mandate. 

His move was quickly criticized by those on the left for being premature. 

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves almost immediately followed suit announcing he is rolling back all county mask mandates and removing statewide restrictions on all businesses from tomorrow, with the exception of maintaining a 50 percent capacity on indoor arenas and keeping rules in place for K-12 schools.

The sudden push to reopen came just hours after CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned states not to rush to ease COVID-19 restrictions too quickly, despite the fall in cases and the increased pace of the vaccine rollout. 

Most of the country has lived under mask mandates during the pandemic, with at least 37 states requiring face coverings to some degree. But those orders are increasingly falling by the wayside with North Dakota, Montana and Iowa also lifting mask orders in recent weeks. 

At the briefing, Psaki touted the Johnson & Johnson/Merck announcement and said it showed that the Biden administration was getting things done.   

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

She added that it was an ‘across-the-administration effort.’

‘As soon as we learned about the fact that Johnson & Johnson was behind in the manufacturing steps and efforts, we took steps to ensure we can expedite that and partner them with one of the world’s biggest manufacturers,’ the press secretary explained.  

One of the two DPA-assisted Merck production facilities will help with ‘fill-finish capacity,’ the actual filling and packaging of vaccine vials. The DPA was also used to help get the correct ingredients for the vaccine, which will be produced in the other Merck facility.  

Psaki wouldn’t say if the reason why the administration stepped in was because Johnson & Johnson wouldn’t be able to fulfill its obligation of 100 million doses to the U.S. government otherwise. 

‘I wouldn’t put it in those terms,’ she said, instead saying the White House wanted to ‘capitalize on the scientific breakthrough’ and ensure that vaccine production was ‘expedited.’  

On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine, making it the third to gain the U.S. government’s approval.

One reporter at the briefing pointed out conversations between people at Johnson & Johnson and Merck were happening before Biden was sworn-in, asking why the administration deserved credit. 

‘There’s a difference between conversations and it moving forward, and the use of the Defense Production Act, which is something this president and not the prior president committed to invoking,’ Psaki said, taking a swipe at Trump, who was reluctant to use the DPA in the early months of the pandemic. 

She said she was only ‘conveying what got it across the finish line.’ 

‘And I think it’s clear that that has only happened relatively recently,’ she said.   

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