This announcement comes as the White House looks to ramp up the production of the single-dose vaccine. Officials have said J&J faced unexpected production issues with its vaccine and produced only 3.9 million doses ahead of its receiving emergency use authorization on Saturday. The company says it is on pace to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also announced Tuesday that the federal government was increasing supply of vaccines to states next week to 15.2 million doses per week, up from 14.5 million previously. States will also receive 2.8 million doses of the J&J shot this week.
The assistance from Merck was expected to help J&J meet its production commitments and expand supply even further, but the administration did not immediately provide specifics.
Psaki said that an “across the administration effort” was required to get the two historic rivals to work together on the vaccines, even though conversations between the two companies have been going on for months.
President Joe Biden highlighted the development in a speech Tuesday afternoon, as his administration now expects to have enough supply of the three approved vaccines to inoculate all eligible American adults by the end of May. “We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” Biden said.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a division of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will provide Merck with funding of up to $268.8 million to adapt and make available a number of existing manufacturing facilities for the production of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. Merck has also entered into agreements with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, to support the manufacturing and supply of Johnson & Johnson’s SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccine. Merck will use its facilities in the United States to produce drug substance, formulate and fill vials of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
“We are steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic as part of the remarkable efforts of the entire medical and scientific community,” said Mike Nally, executive vice president, Human Health at Merck. “This funding from BARDA will allow us to accelerate our efforts to scale up our manufacturing capacity to enable timely delivery of much needed medicines and vaccines for the pandemic.”
Under the terms of the BARDA agreement, Merck will adapt and make available some of the company’s existing manufacturing sites to accelerate manufacturing efforts for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. This funding is in addition to Merck’s continued investment in its global vaccines manufacturing network as part of its planned capital investments of more than $20 billion from 2020 through the end of 2024.
“At Merck, we have a rich legacy in vaccine manufacturing and look forward to combining our expertise with Johnson & Johnson to help increase supply and expand access to authorized SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines,” said Sanat Chattopadhyay, executive vice president and president, Merck Manufacturing Division.