By Carl O’Donnell and Jarrett Renshaw
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. states need to “rally together” to maintain safety measures like social distancing and mask-wearing even as the federal government helps ramp up the production and delivery of vaccines, the White House said on Wednesday.
White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said the federal government is planning to spend $100 million to help the joint partnership between Merck & Co and rival Johnson & Johnson accelerate vaccine production.
The infusion will help Johnson & Johnson ramp up its production of vaccines, Slavitt said. The company was contracted to deliver 200 million doses to the federal government by the end of May and roughly a billion doses globally by end-2021.
“Over time we believe Merck will be able to double the capacity of Johnson & Johnson,” Slavitt said.
Slavitt said while the increased production is good news, he urged states like Texas to reconsider recent decisions to lift mask mandates and allow businesses to fully open without restrictions.
There are health officials in every state who feel “now is the wrong time to lift the mask mandate,” Slavitt said. “Hopefully, the country will continue to rally together on this front.”
(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw and Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
By Rebecca Spalding
(Reuters) – The United States has a backlog of six million COVID-19 vaccine doses due to winter storms and power outages, White House officials said at a media briefing on Friday, adding that the federal government expects to catch up with vaccine distribution by next week.
All 50 states are impacted, said Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House COVID-19 response team. He said delays were due to road closures, shipping company employees unable to get to work, and power outages in certain locations.
States should prepare to handle previously expected doses as well as the backlogged shots, Slavitt said. The United States has been ramping up shipments of vaccines.
Slavitt said the packaging plant that is working on Moderna Inc’s vaccine is “just now” coming online after roads were cleared. It intends to have vaccines on planes by Sunday night for delivery next week, he added.
Earlier this week, Moderna said there may be some short-term delays in vaccine deliveries but that it expected the issue to be resolved soon.
U.S. infectious disease response leader Dr. Anthony Fauci said a trial testing the Pfizer Inc/BioNtech SE vaccine on children younger than 12 would start in April, with results anticipated a year later.
The two companies on Thursday said they have started an international study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of their COVID-19 vaccine in healthy pregnant women.
(Reporting By Rebecca Spalding and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Peter Henderson and Bill Berkrot)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to issue new guidelines for U.S. schools reopening on Friday, White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt said.
Reopening schools is a top priority for the administration of President Joe Biden, who has stressed he wants it done safely and has supported vaccinations for teachers.
The top U.S. health safety agency has been working on a new set of guidelines to meet the challenges that school districts face across the country.
“Tomorrow, the CDC is going to roll out their operating plan to give school districts, local communities, the guidance they need to know to begin to do that and to begin to do that aggressively,” Slavitt said on Thursday.
Pressure to reopen or expand in-person learning for students has been building across the United States in recent weeks as the impact of remote learning on education and family life has become more apparent. The debate over how and when to safely reopen has become heated in many school districts.
Slavitt said he understood why some parents were impatient to reopen and stressed that the CDC was being very thorough in formulating its guidelines on masking, social distancing and other issues.
“I can assure you of one thing: There’s no debate over whether to open schools here. There’s a debate over how,” Slavitt said. “And if it were as simple as ‘open all the schools,’ they’d all be open by now.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Bernadette Baum)