President Joe Biden is slated to announce on March 2 that drugmaker Kenilworth-based Merck will help New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson with ramping up production of its COVID-19 vaccine, according to a report from The Washington Post.
The fierce competitors are both based in New Jersey, but J&J ultimately beat Merck to the punch with a single-shot COVID-19 vaccine. Merck abandoned its efforts to develop a vaccine following lackluster trial data.
Merck will reportedly dedicate two of its manufacturing facilities for various critical stages of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Post, which cited unnamed White House officials.
That would allow for manufacturing capacity more than double what the New Brunswick drugmaker currently possesses.
New Jersey is slated to get as many as 70,000 doses of the J&J vaccine this week, which unlike the Moderna and Pfizer doses only require a single shot. That’s part of the broader 3.9 million doses being shipped across the nation this week, and another 16 million by the end of March.
Moreover, J&J’s vaccine only requires storage in refrigerator temperatures, compared to the Arctic-level temperatures Pfizer and Moderna require. That could ultimately cut down on logistical nightmares for transporting the two-shot vaccines.
Vaccine efforts in New Jersey and across the country have been marred by extreme shortages, red tape and a litany of computer and scheduling errors.
New Jersey officials are aiming to fully vaccinate 4.7 million adults by June, a key hurdle before restrictions on businesses and public gatherings can be relaxed.
National health figures like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, have suggested that under the current vaccine rates, the nation could largely return to pre-pandemic life by the late summer or early fall.