Washington (AFP) – Executives from major COVID-19 vaccine producers are set to answer congressional questions on Tuesday about expanding supplies of bullets needed to curb the pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans.
The hearing comes as US vaccinations continue to accelerate after a slow start and recent disruptions caused by winter weather. But state health officials say the demand for vaccinations still greatly exceeds the limited weekly shipments offered by the federal government.
The Energy and Trade Commission has begun hearing testimony from five companies that have contracts to supply the US with COVID-19 shots: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and Novavax.
“The most pressing challenge right now is the lack of supply of vaccine doses,” said Representative Diana Digit at the opening of the hearing. “Some companies here today still lack the number of doses that they initially promised when they testified before this subcommittee in July.”
DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, chairs a sub-commission of inquiry that held a hearing on Tuesday. It urged “a direct assessment of the position of the manufacturing process”.
Pharmaceutical executives are expected to face specific questions about whether a lack of raw materials, manpower, or financing is slowing down the pace of manufacturing. Lawmakers are also expected to wonder whether more use of the Defense Production Act – a Cold War era law used to coerce the private manufacturing sector – could help speed up the process.
In written testimony released on Monday, company executives did not describe shortages or other bottlenecks that had not actually been addressed.
More than 75 million doses of the two vaccine regimen vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have already been distributed to the states, with nearly 14% of Americans receiving at least an initial dose. Pfizer expects to ship more than 13 million doses per week by mid-March.
New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J revealed in testimony that it will be able to supply 20 million US doses of the COVID-19 single-shot vaccine by the end of March, assuming it gets the green light from federal regulators. The company promised to supply the US government with 100 million doses by the end of June.
The company had previously released few details of its initial supplies, although White House officials warned last week that it would be limited.
J&J Vice President Richard Nettles plans to tell lawmakers that the company faces “significant challenges” in scaling up its vaccine, due to the “extremely complex” manufacturing process. Nettles states that the company is still on track to supply the United States with the promised doses and one billion doses globally by the end of 2021.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant emergency approval for a J&J vaccine as soon as this weekend, providing a first-shot option to protect against the virus.
Despite the current restrictions, federal health officials say the United States is on the cusp of a supply boom, with a total of 600 million doses scheduled to be delivered by late July. This would be enough to meet the government’s goal of providing enough footage for every adult American.
Even with no disruptions to manufacturing or supply, other problems could delay or prevent the United States from vaccinating 70% to 80% of its population – which is critical. threshold Needed to neutralize the spread of COVID-19.
About 1 in 3 Americans say they will or may not get a vaccine, according to the latest development vote From the Associated Press – NORC Public Affairs Research Center. Safety concerns have been the most frequent cause of vaccine hesitation, despite some serious side effects that have been reported with currently available vaccines.
Associated Press writer Zeki Miller contributed to this story.
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.