COVID-19 vaccine makers tell Congress U.S. supply will surge soon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - COVID-19 vaccine makers told Congress on Tuesday that U.S. supplies should surge in the coming weeks due to manufacturing expansions and new vaccine authorizations.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Executives from Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson - speaking at a hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives - said they would be able to supply enough vaccine to have fully inoculated 130 million people in the United States by the end of March.

The drugmakers also reaffirmed their commitments to supply more than enough doses necessary to vaccinate all Americans by the end of July.

Pfizer Chief Business Officer John Young said it was plausible that there could be a surplus of vaccine in the United States sometime in the second quarter of this year.

“We certainly hope that we’re going to be in a position where every eligible adult will be able to receive vaccinations,” Young said.

Around 44.5 million people in the United States had received at least one dose of two-shot vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech or Moderna, as of Tuesday morning.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to accelerate an unprecedented campaign to vaccinate most American adults, as local governments clamor for more doses and the virus kills thousands of Americans every day.

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Demand for vaccines still far outpaces supply, but Pfizer and Moderna said their supply will soon rise sharply.

Pfizer expects to deliver more than 13 million doses of vaccine per week to the United States by the middle of March, up from 4 million to 5 million doses a week at the beginning of February. Moderna said it delivered 9 million doses last week and expects to soon be able to supply nearly 50 million doses a month.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine will be reviewed by an outside advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later this week, and emergency use authorization could come shortly afterward.

Richard Nettles, vice president of medical affairs at J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit, said the company would be able to ship nearly 4 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine upon authorization and 20 million doses by the end of March.

Additional vaccine supplies could also come from AstraZeneca Plc and from Novavax Inc, which are currently running clinical trials of their experimental shots.

An AstraZeneca executive said the drugmaker could supply doses necessary to vaccinate another 25 million people by the end of April if their vaccine is authorized by U.S. regulators.

Novavax said if its vaccine is authorized, it will be able to supply the United States with 110 million doses - enough to vaccinate 55 million people - by the third quarter of the year.

U.S. vaccination sites initially struggled to administer shots fast enough to keep pace with vaccine deliveries. More recently, however, supply constraints have slowed ambitious vaccination programs, as massive sites capable of putting shots into thousands of arms daily, as well as hospitals and pharmacies, beg for more doses.

CVS Health Corp Chief Executive Karen Lynch said on Tuesday the company would begin administering COVID-19 vaccines at its pharmacies across 17 states by end of this week.

It is currently vaccinating people at its pharmacies in 11 states in addition to several long-term care facilities, as part of a collaboration with the U.S. government.

Reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by Bill Berkrot