Johnson & Johnson is prepared to tell members of Congress on Tuesday that it expects to have more than 20 million doses ready by the end of March to protect against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.
“Assuming necessary regulatory approvals relating to our manufacturing processes, our plan is to begin shipping immediately upon emergency use authorization, and deliver enough single-doses by the end of March to enable the vaccination of more than 20 million Americans,” Richard Nettles, vice president of U.S. medical affairs for a portion of Johnson & Johnson, will tell the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to prepared remarks made public ahead of a Feb. 23 committee hearing.
“We are confident in our plans to deliver 100 million single-dose vaccines to the United States during the first half of 2021, and we are continuing to partner with the U.S. government to explore all options to accelerate delivery,” Nettle also plans to say, according to the remarks.
Only two COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for use in the United States, one from Pfizer and one from Moderna. Both require two doses spaced about three weeks apart, meaning manufacturers must make two doses for every one person in order for full vaccination to occur.
Johnson & Johnson’s shot, on the other hand, is a single dose. If the company can deliver the projected 20-plus million doses, that would vaccinate 20 million additional Americans.
As of Feb. 22, 19.4 million Americans have received two doses of a vaccine, with nearly 25 million others getting one shot so far. President Joe Biden has made increasing the daily pace of vaccinations a central focus in his early time in office, and the figure recently eclipsed 1.7 million daily doses, in a seven-day average.
Johnson & Johnson asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 4 for emergency use authorization, after a global trial found it was 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe disease 28 days after vaccination. Officials had said they were targeting an efficacy rate of 90 percent or higher.
The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee is scheduled to meet on Friday to present advice on the application.
Andy Slavitt, a top COVID-19 adviser to Biden, told reporters this week that the administration would wait until drug regulators analyze the vaccine candidate before outlining plans to distribute it.
“Once we understand what the scientific community has to say, we will then be in a position to answer, I think, the very relevant questions that we need scientists’ advice on,” he said.
While the two authorized shots use messenger RNA platforms, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses an adenovirus, or a type of virus that causes the common cold. The virus is manipulated to be unable to replicate. The virus carries a gene from the CCP virus into human cells, which then produce a spike protein that can help the immune system fight off infection from the virus.
The company said last month that it was able to develop the vaccine so quickly in part because officials obtained the virus’s sequence information from China in January 2020, shortly after it emerged in the country.