By Sabrina Siddiqui and Tarini Parti 

Merck & Co. will help produce Johnson & Johnson's single-dose Covid-19 vaccine, President Biden plans to announce later Tuesday, as the administration pushes to get the shot to the American public at a faster pace.

The president is expected to make the announcement while giving an update on the pandemic Tuesday afternoon, administration officials said. The assistance from Merck, usually a competitor to Johnson & Johnson, will help speed up production after the one-shot vaccine was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday.

J&J declined to comment. In a statement Tuesday, a spokesman for Merck said the company "remains steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic and to preparing to address future pandemics."

U.S. regulators cleared J&J's vaccine -- the third to receive approval -- for use, but initial supplies are limited as the company continues to increase manufacturing efforts. The New Brunswick, N.J.-based firm had made nearly four million doses for initial shipments that began going out this week. The Biden administration said it expected about 20 million doses to be delivered by the end of March.

Merck, a Kenilworth, N.J. firm, is a pioneer in vaccines, such as those to prevent mumps and shingles, but has been on the sidelines of the Covid-19 vaccine race since scrapping two programs in January after disappointing clinical studies. Merck was also slower to pursue Covid-19 vaccines, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.

The partnership between J&J and Merck would mark the latest example of pharmaceutical rivals working together to make Covid-19 vaccines. Sanofi SA and Novartis AG are helping to make the shot from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.

The move comes as Mr. Biden's administration has underscored the urgency of vaccinating the public against Covid-19 and warned of a new and more transmissible variant that is rapidly spreading across the country.

White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday that the administration had begun distributing 3.9 million doses of the J&J vaccine to states, tribes and territories, as well as to pharmacies and community health centers. Mr. Zients said the company had communicated to the administration that supply "will be limited for the next couple of weeks" after the initial distribution but expected to deliver additional doses by the end of March.

Write to Sabrina Siddiqui at Sabrina.Siddiqui@wsj.com and Tarini Parti at Tarini.Parti@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 02, 2021 09:39 ET (14:39 GMT)

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