Merck & Co. To Manufacture J&J’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Merck & Co. has entered into an agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (J&J), to support the manufacturing and supply of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine. J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use authorization late last month (February 2021) from the US Food and Drug Administration.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will collaborate with Merck to repurpose some of existing Merck facilities for rapid large-scale manufacturing of vaccines and therapeutics for use in public health emergencies, including the current pandemic. The facilities will be available to private sector partners working with the US federal government on the COVID-19 response or to produce Merck products against COVID-19. Janssen Pharmaceuticals will be the first federal partner to use repurposed Merck facilities to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine. Merck will use two of its facilities in the US to produce drug substance, formulate, and fill vials of the vaccine, according to the HHS.

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, will provide up to $268.8 million in funding to Merck, with an initial investment of $105 million, to adapt and make available a number of existing manufacturing facilities for the production of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. This funding is in addition to Merck’s continued investment in its global vaccines manufacturing network as part of its planned capital investments of more than $20 billion from 2020 through the end of 2024.

To further accelerate production of the J&J vaccine, President Joe Biden further announced he has invoked the Defense Production Act to expedite materials in vaccine production, such as equipment, machinery, and supplies, such as single-use bags. He has directed the Department of Defense to provide daily logistical support to strengthen J&J’s efforts. J&J also will begin operating its manufacturing facilities 24/7 to maximize production output.

These efforts will contribute to J&J’s ability to accelerate delivery of its vaccine doses from 100 million doses by the end of June (June 2021) to at or near 100 million doses by the end of May (May 2021), according to the HHS. In the long term, the HHS says these actions will ultimately double J&J’s US capacity to produce drug substance and increase US capacity for fill-finish.

J&J says it expects this manufacturing arrangement will enhance production capacity so that the company can supply beyond its current commitments. Merck is the ninth manufacturer to join J&J’s global network for manufacturing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Source: Merck & Co., Johnson & Johnson, US Department of Health and Human Services, and White House Press Briefing

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