Biden’s Vaccine-Supply Drive Falls Short of Surging Demand

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Biden’s Vaccine-Supply Drive Falls Short of Surging Demand” – below is their description.

    The Biden administration’s move to boost the supply of Covid-19 vaccines in coming weeks amounts to opening the faucet a little wider: Even with the extra flow, demand for the shots will still swamp supply for months unless the U.S. can open another spigot.

    President Joe Biden said Tuesday the U.S. would ship at least 10 million doses for the next three weeks, a 16% increase over the current level. That pace means tens of millions of Americans who are now eligible for the shot — those 65 and older in many states — will still have to wait.

    Biden also announced plans to increase the country’s longer term supply of the vaccines. The administration said it is “working to” purchase 200 million more doses, 100 million each from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., for delivery over the summer. That will bring the total U.S. supply of the two-dose vaccines to 600 million shots, enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans by summer’s end, the administration said.

    The new purchases are being made under options from the federal government’s existing contracts with the companies and will be paid for with funds Congress previously allocated, according to a person familiar with the situation.

    On Wednesday, Moderna confirmed it is in active discussions with the U.S. to supply another 100 million doses in the third quarter. Pfizer spokeswoman Amy Rose, meanwhile, said the company “will do its part to help the Biden administration make more shots-in-arms a reality.”

    Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in an interview Tuesday that the company also will be able to supply the U.S. with 200 million Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of May, two months sooner than previously expected. That’s because of a change in the vaccine’s label that allows health-care providers to extract an additional dose from each vial.

    Pfizer was down 1.8% at 9:42 a.m. in New York. Moderna was up 0.1% at 9:45 a.m.

    Yet even with the added supply, the number of Americans who are vaccinated in the months ahead may ultimately be determined by the number of doses provided by other drugmakers. The best chance for a dramatic increase in supply may come in the weeks ahead, as Johnson & Johnson prepares to ask U.S. regulators to clear its experimental Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use.

    The U.S. announced up to $1.2 billion in support for AstraZeneca PLC’s vaccine efforts last May, but the company has yet to deliver a vaccine after a delay in its trial in the U.S. slowed progress to authorization. Enrollment in its U.S. trial is now complete, the company said Wednesday at a meeting of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisers. The vaccine may be cleared for U.S. use in April, former Warp Speed adviser Moncef Slaoui said last month.

    As he was announcing the supply increase, Biden played down expectations for vaccines to bring a swift end to the pandemic, urging Americans to wear masks and warning that the U.S. will reach 500,000 deaths next month.

    “The brutal truth is it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated — months,” Biden said Tuesday at the White House.

    Biden, who has been in office for one week, is building on the vaccine rollout started by former President Donald Trump under the Operation Warp Speed program.

    The U.S. has administered the first dose of the two-shot vaccines to more than 20 million Americans. Even using the entire near-term supply of 10 million doses a week, it would take months to inoculate the more than 200 million Americans prioritized for the first phases. That includes all essential workers, people 65 and older, and adults with medical conditions.

    In December, before vaccinations started, Biden pledged to deliver 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his presidency. The U.S. surpassed that pace in the first days of his administration, essentially letting Biden start at his own finish line. The country has administered 23.5 million Covid vaccines and is vaccinating people at a rate of 1.25 million a day in the past week, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

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