Deal reportedly struck for Merck to help manufacture Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

March 2, 2021
Keith A. Reynolds

Multiple news organizations report that the White House has brokered the unusual deal.

The White House is expected to announce a deal which would see drug manufacturer Merck & Co helping to produce doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

As first reported by The Washington Post, President Joe R. Biden is expected to announce the partnership, which was brokered by his administration, today. The move came following a scramble to find a company to help Johnson & Johnson which had fallen behind on producing its single-dose vaccine.

Merck will reportedly dedicate two facilities in the U.S. to the vaccine: one will bottle and package the vaccine while the other make doses. This has the potential to vastly increase the supply, The Post reports.

The Food and Drug Administration granted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine emergency use authorization Saturday making it the third authorized vaccine for COVID-19.

Last week, the FDA released documents ahead of a Feb. 26 meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee detailing the vaccine’s effectiveness against the disease. They said that it was shown to be 66.9 percent effective against moderate to severe or critical COVID-19 and is 76.7 percent effective in preventing severe or critical instances of the disease.

The documents note that the vaccine has been highly effective in the prevention of severe or critical COVID-19 caused by emerging strains of the disease with 73.1 percent efficacy in South Africa. This is a 7 percent increase in efficacy against the South African strain of the disease from what the company believed in January.