The White House said on Wednesday that US states need to “rally together” to maintain safety measures like social distancing and mask-wearing while the federal government helps scale up production and delivery of vaccine shots.
Coronavirus infections in the United States remain upwards of 50,000 daily even after the US government has distributed at least 100 million vaccine shots and put doses into more than 50 million arms, according to federal data.
“This is not forever … we know that it can save tens of thousands of lives,” White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on a Wednesday press call of continuing safety measures after Texas and other states said they were rolling back some pandemic-related restrictions.
“We strongly encourage people to continue to wear masks, and mayors, governors and others – recognizing that they have difficult decisions to make – to keep the course.”
The federal government is planning to spend $100 million to help the joint partnership between Merck & Co and rival Johnson & Johnson announced on Tuesday expedite vaccine production, Slavitt said.
He added that the infusion will help J&J scale up production of its one-shot vaccine.
J&J was contracted to deliver 200 million vaccine shots to the federal government by the end of May and nearly a billion doses globally by end-2021.
“Over time we believe Merck will be able to double the capacity of Johnson & Johnson,” Slavitt said.
US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday the United States will have enough vaccine supply to inoculate all adults by May.
J&J, Pfizer Inc, and Moderna Inc are contracted to deliver 700 million doses by mid-year between them.
Slavitt urged states like Texas to reconsider recent decisions to lift mask mandates and allow businesses to fully open without restrictions, saying there are health officials in every state who feel “now is the wrong time to lift the mask mandate.”