By Dania Nadeem, Rebecca Spalding and Julie Steenhuysen
(Reuters) – The Biden government is currently reviewing all options to increase manufacturing of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently under regulatory review, and said on Friday that the early dosages currently expected were less than hoped .
The White House relied on the Defense Manufacturing Act to help Pfizer Inc ramp up COVID-19 vaccine production and that “every option” was on the table to produce more Johnson & Johnson vaccines, should it be approved .
It will also use the war forces to increase COVID-19 testing at home and manufacture more surgical gloves in the US, officials said at a news conference on Friday.
“As with other vaccines, we have not determined that the level of manufacture allows us to have as much vaccine as we think is necessary,” said Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House COVID-19 Response Team, referring to the J&J Vaccine.
J&J filed for U.S. emergency clearance Thursday. A vaccine is expected to be available for distribution once approved, but how much has not been stated.
Robert Kramer, chief executive of Emergent Biosolutions, said in an interview on Friday that the company is currently “mass-producing” J&J drugs. Emergent only makes bulk vaccines which are then filled into syringes or vials and packaged for shipping by another contractor.
Kramer said they are on track to make enough product to make hundreds of millions of cans a year. It remains unclear what other supply bottlenecks could exist. Kramer said his company had already benefited from the Defense Production Act under the Trump administration, which helped the company get to the point where it was operational.
Under the authority of the Defense Production Act, the government will prioritize two components that are important to Pfizer’s vaccine production – fill pumps and tangential flow filter units, officials said.
“We told you that if we heard of a shortage of equipment, supplies or technology related to vaccine supply, we would step in and help, and that is exactly what we did,” said Tim Manning, the coordinator for the Country supply chain COVID-19 response.
The government will also use its powers under the Defense Production Act to increase COVID-19 tests at home with six unnamed manufacturers to produce 61 million tests by the summer, Manning said.
It will also use its powers to increase the nation’s supply of surgical gloves, almost all of which are overseas made.
Manning said the government will build factories that will make the raw materials for surgical gloves and help build facilities in the US to make the gloves.
By the end of the year, the US could produce a billion gloves a month.
Officials have said that once J & J’s vaccine is approved, it would mean that states would have millions more doses available. Unlike the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna Inc., the vaccine is one-time and can be stored in the refrigerator.
Officials have hoped that the ease of administering the J&J vaccine will allow states to immunize residents faster.
(Reporting by Dania Nadeem, Rebecca Spalding and Julie Steenhuysen, editing by Peter Henderson, Steve Orlofsky and David Gregorio)