President Biden announced on Tuesday that Merck will assist Johnson & Johnson in manufacturing its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Through this partnership, the Biden Administration “will pay $268.8 million to Merck to upgrade multiple plants to the necessary safety standards to produce Johnson & Johnson vaccine, from fermentation in vats to final finish and filling in vials.” The number of doses Merck will produce has not been disclosed, but manufacturing is expected to ramp up in the second half of the year.
On Saturday, the United States Senate approved the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in a 50-49 party line vote. The package includes: “direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans, a $300 weekly boost to jobless benefits into September and an expansion of the child tax credit for one year. It also puts new funding into Covid-19 vaccine distribution and testing, rental assistance for struggling households and K-12 schools for reopening costs.” The legislation was sent back to the House where it awaits expected approval.
In Massachusetts, Governor Baker announced on Thursday that the mass vaccination site at Fenway Park will be moved to Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. The site at Hynes is expected to open on March 18 and Fenway will take its last patients on March 27. Anyone that is scheduled to receive a second dose at Fenway after it closes will have the appointment honored at the Hynes.
On Monday, the CDC updated its guidelines for individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to the new guidance, vaccinated people are able to visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or social distancing, visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 without wearing masks or social distancing, and refrain from quarantine/testing after exposure if asymptomatic. However, vaccinated people are still expected to wear masks in public, get tested for COVID-19 if they are experiencing symptoms, and avoid large gatherings. Individuals are considered to be fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or two weeks after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci joined a virtual discussion hosted by Tufts University on Monday to discuss “his experiences leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, his career in public health, and the importance of science advocacy.” And on Tuesday, Massachusetts state lawmakers will meet in a virtual public hearing to review and discuss the economic development, labor, and housing components of Governor Baker’s fiscal year 2022 budget recommendations.