Biden: We just bought more doses and should have enough for 300 million Americans by the end of July

I mentioned this in an earlier post but it deserves its own thread, as any news that means more vaccinations happening sooner is important news. Watch this and see why Fauci has sounded sanguine lately about making the general public eligible for the vaccine as soon as April. The sporadic shortages we’re facing — here’s one timely example — should ease within the next two months.

In fact, it may not be long before the burning policy question isn’t “Why aren’t there more vaccines available?” but rather “What are we going to do with these hundreds of millions of extra doses we’ve ordered?”

A nice problem to have, thanks to the pharmaceutical industry. Watch, then read on.

The White House exercised its option on 100 million more doses each from Pfizer and Moderna, expanding the total eventual national supply on order from 400 million to 600 million. But the real news is the somewhat accelerated timetable for delivery, which we owe not to Biden but to private industry.

Administration officials have been telling partners that their recent move to expand Pfizer’s priority rating under the Defense Production Act would help the pharmaceutical giant obtain needed equipment to produce the additional 100 million doses by the end of the second quarter, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. When asked about the action under the Korean War-era law, a Pfizer spokeswoman did not address it directly but said, “Our teams continue to work closely on our production as our commercial ramp-up progresses.”

Moderna has already promised to supply the federal government with 100 million doses by the end of March and another 100 million by the end of June. Pfizer has indicated it can provide 120 million doses by the end of March and another 80 million by the end of May, two months earlier than its initial July target.

A Pfizer manager said a few days ago that the company’s main plant in Michigan has doubled its output in the past month and believes it can make production efficient enough to produce a batch of the vaccine in 60 days now instead of the expected 110. There *may* also be some reinforcements on the way from Merck, whose own vaccine went bust last month but which is now talking to various governments and competitors about how its capabilities might be put to use to crank out doses for other companies. One rumored possibility is Merck joining forces with Novavax to mass-produce that outfit’s vaccine, which showed solid results in trials.

So if I’m understanding the math correctly, that’s 200 million doses each from Pfizer and Moderna by summer under the option exercised today by Biden. We also have 100 million doses under contract from Johnson & Johnson and another 100 million on tap from Novavax, although neither one of those has been approved yet by the FDA. That’s 600 million, enough for everyone in the U.S. when you recall that J&J’s dose is a single shot. But we could have even more doses potentially, as the federal government’s contract with Moderna grants an option to purchase up to 500 million total. I wonder if those unexercised options can be used to buy a new vaccine being developed by Moderna to target the new variants like the South African strain or if a separate contract will need to be negotiated.

Anyway, you know what the accelerated timeline means, don’t you? It means even less of an excuse for the Biden White House to drag their feet on reopening schools, especially with respect to the 2021 academic year beginning in classrooms as scheduled this fall. Rory Cooper, who has three kids at the mercy of the local teachers union in Fairfax, Virginia, has a worthy piece in NRO today about how badly Biden’s failed over his first three weeks in office at what should be a top priority.

The two-day-a-week hybrid model, with its implicitly smaller class sizes, was created to get kids back into the classroom before a vaccine was available. Inept school boards kept delaying the end of this temporary measure. Now, after it has been done for so long, it is being deceptively embraced as the post-vaccine ideal. This is simply nuts. After teachers in closed school districts are vaccinated, schools should be open full-time, five-days-a-week, just as so many of their counterparts already are doing (and as some were doing before vaccines were even available).

Now that teachers are being vaccinated, for whom are we making these vast infrastructure changes anyway? It’s not for the teachers, whose risk will thankfully soon be measured in decimal points. And it’s not for children, who — public-health officials often and repeatedly remind us — are not significant spreaders or victims of this virus. In fact, the major health crises facing children today — depression, suicide, lack of confidence, academic failures, lack of socialization, poor nutrition, insufficient exercise — are being caused by the closures, not by the virus.

Frederick Hess also wrote a few days ago about the many reasons why public schools haven’t reopened as expeditiously as private ones have. The union is a major factor, of course, as is the incentive local governments have to plead poverty to the feds by staying closed, as is wanting to avoid the small risk of an outbreak occurring after a school district reopens with administrators being blamed. But don’t overlook good ol’ parental apathy either, notes Hess. There may yet be a meaningful backlash brewing among America’s parents to protracted school closures, especially if they extend into the next school year, but there’s not much evidence of it outside the commentariat. Hess cites one well-known educational survey this way: “The public continues to give schools high marks, with 61 percent giving schools in their community an A or B (up a bit from last year), and shows no evidence of turning on unions; in fact, Education Next reports that ‘parents seem to be viewing unions in a more favorable light.’” People who don’t demand accountability from their schools and government won’t get it.

I’ll leave you with this, in which Sleepy Joe once again tries to convince Americans that Operation Warp Speed never happened and he’s basically invented the whole vaccine program on the fly.