Illustration of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine

Given Ruvic | Reuters

Johnson & Johnson will not hold a “large inventory” of its Covid-19 vaccine prior to regulatory approval expected this month, President Joe Biden’s Covid tsar said Wednesday.

Jeff Zients said the government has learned in recent weeks that J&J will only manufacture “a few million” doses if its single vaccine is likely to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Federal and state health officials expected vaccine supplies to increase rapidly once the J&J emergency vaccine was approved. The FDA scheduled a meeting of its Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biological Products on February 26th to discuss the vaccine. The US could approve the vaccine the next day.

J&J currently has a contract with the U.S. government to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of June, said Zients, the president’s Covid-19 response coordinator. Assuming the vaccine is approved, the Biden government will work with J&J to increase supply as soon as possible. US officials hope many of these cans will be available in the first few months of their introduction.

“We are doing everything we can to work with the company to expedite the delivery schedule,” Zients told reporters during a White House press conference about the pandemic.

The news comes as the Biden government works to increase the supply of cans after states complained that demand for the shots was quickly exceeding supply. Around 39.7 million of roughly 331 million Americans have received at least their first dose of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s two-dose vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 15 million of those people have already got their second shot.

Biden announced Thursday that the US has received 100 million more doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and 100 million more of the Moderna vaccine, bringing the total US supply to 600 million doses. Since the vaccines require two doses, a total of 600 million doses would be enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced that the Biden administration is increasing the number of Covid-19 vaccine doses sent weekly to states, shipping 13.5 million doses this week, and increasing the number of doses retailed at pharmacies doubled.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that most Americans will have access to a Covid-19 vaccine by mid to late May or early June, a slight delay compared to previous predictions made in late March and April.

The White House chief medical officer said the federal government expects J&J to “significantly increase” starting doses.

“I’m a little disappointed that the number of doses we’re getting early from J&J is relatively small, but as we get further into spring there will be more and more,” said Fauci.

In the meantime, Pfizer and Moderna are looking into whether their vaccines can prevent transmission of the virus, he said on Wednesday, adding that early studies point in a “favorable direction”.