Biden announced that Merck & Co Inc will help make rival Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in a partnership that he said was similar to those seen during World War Two. With three vaccines now available, Biden said he was confident the country would reach his goal of delivering 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in 100 days.
Biden also ordered U.S. states to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers to ensure children could return to school quickly and safely, and called for every educator to receive at least one shot by the end of March.
He said increased production of three vaccines would boost the effort to reopen U.S. schools, citing growing mental health concerns and the risk of widening disparities caused by the challenges of remote learning.
Biden said over 30 states had already taken steps to ensure educators were vaccinated, and said he was using the full authority of the federal government to direct the remaining states to follow suit.
“My challenge is this: we want every educator, school staff member, child care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” he said, noting that many parents were exiting the labor market to help their children learn remotely.
To meet that goal, Biden said the federal pharmacy program would prioritize the vaccination of pre-K through 12 educators and staff, as well as child care workers.
He said his goal remained to have most schools open by the end of his first 100 days in office, but said that required passage of the $1.9 trillion rescue plan currently working its way through Congress.
“Let’s treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is, and that means getting essential workers (who) provide that service – educators, school staff, childcare workers – …. vaccinated immediately,” he said.