Experts explain why Johnson & Johnson and Merck collaboration will change vaccine rollout

President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to partner Johnson & Johnson with pharmaceutical rival Merck.

That brought encouraging news from President. "This country will have enough vaccine supply, I'll say it again, for every adult in America by the end of May."

The collaboration between the two drugmakers is expected to produce 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine by the end of May, which is two months early than planned.

"I've always said, this is a war time effort," said Biden on Tuesday.

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"In war time, even competitors cooperate," said Olaf Groth, who teaches global strategy and innovation at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. "Johnson and Johnson, much like any other pharmaceutical company now producing vaccines, has been hunting for manufacturing capacity around the world."

"It's a good thing that both are collaborating, not just for the country by the way, or for the world," explained Groth, "but it's also a good thing for these companies themselves because they are able to scale into this vaccine together, much more smoothly towards the second half of this year."
Merck manufactures major vaccines like Measles, Mumps, Rubella, the Gardasil HPV, and Zoster shingles vaccines. Stanford's Dr. Yvonne Maldonado explains that the partnership puts Merck back in the COVID vaccine game. "Frankly, Merck did not do well with their two vaccine candidates. So they've got the facilities all around the world to make vaccines, and why not!"

"If there was any vaccine that I would have chosen to get more supply of, it would have been Johnson & Johnson," said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at UCSF.

She says J&J's single dose vaccine will allow the U.S. to quickly protect people and catch-up to other countries. "All I can think about is Israel and the UK. The reason, is I'm watching their rapid vaccine rollout bear so much fruit in terms of reduced cases, hospitalizations, people come alive and go back to normalcy and timelines for normalcy. The more that we can emulate that rapid vaccine rollout, it matters. Days and weeks matter for people to become immune"

The experts say that by the summer, the U.S. will likely have a surplus of COVID vaccines, which could be used to vaccinate teens, give boosters to adults, and export.


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