Pfizer, Moderna, plan to ship 135M doses of covid vaccine in 5 weeks

Pfizer and Moderna will deliver at least another 135 million doses of coronavirus vaccines over the next five weeks, the firms will lawmakers on Tuesday. 

The two companies have considerably ramped up their production of vaccine doses and found solutions to previous manufacturing issues that caused bottlenecks in production.  

To date, Pfizer has delivered about 40 million doses to the US, and Moderna has delivered 45 million, executives for each firm said in prepared testimony for the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. 

CDC’s vaccine tracker says it has received a total of 75 million doses from the two companies, leaving the remainder to be shipped by the end of March between 135 and 145 million doses from the two companies.  

Together, Pfizer and Moderna are contracted to deliver 600 million doses of their shots to the US by the end of July, and they’ve pledged to have 220 million ready by the end of March. 

Moderna says it will increase weekly shipments to the US to 40 million a week by the end of April. Pfizer said it would increase shipments from four to five million to 13 million a week ‘over the coming weeks.’   

After they failed to meet early delivery goals due to supply chain and production issues, each firm has now said it is operating ahead of schedule. 

As of Tuesday, nearly 64.21 million of those 85 million doses had been administered to Americans, according to data from Bloomberg. 

The US is giving about just shy of 1.4 million doses of vaccines a day, but most states are running out of supply. Another 135 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna over the next five weeks could dramatically increase the daily vaccination rates 

Pfizer earlier this month said it had doubled its production speed at its Michigan manufacturing plant, which President Joe Biden visited Friday (pictured, file) 

The US rollout picked up steam earlier this month, but last week’s extreme weather was a blow to President Biden’s aim to dramatically accelerate vaccinations (though the campaign is still on track to meet his goal of 100 million shots in 100 days handily). 

The US is now giving 1.37 million doses a day, but shipments are barely keeping up with the pace at which shots are being administered, with more than 85 percent of distributed doses already used up in more than half of states.   

‘Because of the dire need to vaccinate more people, we have ramped up production of doses,’ said Pfizer’s chief business officer, John Young, in his testimony. 

Despite the ramp-up, just 13.3 percent of the US population has received one or more doses of vaccine, and just shy of six percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated. 

Pfizer fell short of its earliest global distribution goals due to supply chain issues. As a result it cut the number of doses it shipped globally by the end of 2020 by half. 

By the end of 2020, the US government said it had distributed a combined 14 million doses of shots from Pfizer and Moderna to states and three million shots had been administered . 

Both figures were far short of Operation Warp Speed’s goal of giving 20 million first doses by the end of last year. 

About 13% of the US has had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with the highest rates in states like West Virginia and Alaska 

States are using up their supply of vaccine doses nearly as fast as the federal government can ship doses. More than half of states have used up more than 85% of their doses 

Pfizer hit a second speed bump when updates to its Brussels manufacturing plant caused further production delays, though it said it was still able to deliver about 92 percent of its promised supply. 

But in early February the firm announced it had doubled output so that it could produce a batch of vaccine doses every 60 days, instead every 110 days, according to a USA Today report. 

‘Since July, we have increased projected 2021 global production from 1.3 billion doses, to at least 2 billion doses,’ Young said in his testimony. 

The firm has opened new facilities, upgraded old ones, and gotten the FDA’s okay to label its vials for six doses instead of five. 

‘As a result of these improvements, we expect to increase the number of doses we make available for shipment from approximately 4 to 5 million doses per week at the beginning of February to more than 13 million doses per week by the middle of March,’ Young said.

‘We are on track to make 120 million doses available for shipment by the end of March and an additional 80 million doses by the end of May. And, we anticipate all 300 million contracted doses will be made available for shipment by the end of July, enabling the vaccination of up to 150 million Americans.’  

Moderna has hit fewer production snags early on, but several of its batches spoiled during distribution by partner McKesson, as well as on-site in Maine and California. 

CEO Stephane Bancel said in January that, although the overall production was successfully increasing, exactly how many doses it could offer on a given day or week fluctuated with the availability of raw materials. 

And last week the company said it had experienced some ‘short-term delays’ at contract manufacturing plant Catalent that delayed delivery of some doses but would soon be resolved and ‘are not expected to impact monthly delivery targets.’ 

It did not specify the nature of the issue. 

Moderna also asked the FDA permission to increase the number of doses it fills its bottles with by up to 40 percent, because while its supply of the vaccine serum itself was increasing, the number of bottles its machines can fill at once are limited. 

Now, Moderna president Dr Stephen Hoge tells Congress the firm has doubled its production of COVID-19 vaccines and will double it again by the end of April. 

‘To date, we have delivered over 45 million doses of our vaccine, with tens of millions more at different stages of the production process,’ said Hoge in his testimony. 

‘We are on track to meet our commitment to deliver 100 million doses by the end of March. We have doubled our monthly deliveries since late 2020, and we are aiming to double them again by April to more than 40 million doses per month. 

‘Based on this progress scaling up manufacturing, we recently agreed to move up our delivery timeline: we now are aiming to deliver a second hundred million doses by the end of May and a third hundred million doses by the end of July.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Johnson is ramping up its vaccine production as it looks ahead in the hopes of emergency authorization soon. 

An advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet Thursday to discuss whether to greenlight Johnson & Johnson’s shot. 

‘We will have 20 million doses of the vaccine to be made available by the end of March and we are prepared to ship four million doses immediately upon emergency approval,’ said  Vice President of Medical Affairs of Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical arm.