But Johnson & Johnson and its companions fell behind of their manufacturing. The firm was alleged to ship its first 37 million doses by the top of March, but it surely has mentioned it might be capable to ship solely 20 million doses by that date, which made Biden aides nervous.
In late January, Jeffrey D. Zients, Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, and Dr. David Kessler, who’s managing vaccine distribution for the White House, reached out to high officers on the firm, together with Alex Gorsky, its chief government, with a blunt message: This is unacceptable.
That led to a sequence of negotiations in February through which administration officers repeatedly pressured Johnson & Johnson to just accept that they wanted assist, whereas urging Merck to be a part of the answer, based on two administration officers who participated within the discussions.
In a press release on Tuesday, Merck mentioned the federal authorities would pay it as much as $269 million to adapt and make out there its present amenities to supply coronavirus vaccines. Michael T. Nally, the manager vice chairman of human well being at Merck, mentioned in an interview that the corporate had been in talks with a number of corporations and governments, together with officers within the former Trump administration.
“I believe all of us acknowledge that every single day counts,” he mentioned.
Mr. Nally declined to offer an estimate for what number of doses of vaccine the corporate might in the end produce, saying solely that it might be “substantial.” The expanded provide from Merck, although, will not be prone to turn out to be out there for months.
One federal official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity, mentioned different steps the administration took would transfer up Johnson & Johnson’s manufacturing timeline.
Those steps, mentioned Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, included offering a crew of consultants to observe manufacturing and logistical help from the Defense Department. In addition, the president will invoke the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era legislation, to offer Johnson & Johnson entry to provides essential to make and package deal vaccines.