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Scott Asks Johnson & Johnson To Sell 300,000 Vaccines Directly To Baltimore

Courtesy of the University of Maryland Medical System

Mayor Brandon Scott has asked Johnson & Johnson to sell coronavirus vaccine doses slated to be manufactured in Baltimore directly to the city, in an attempt to expedite the vaccination process for residents and bypass the federal distribution system.

“Due to inadequate supply, we are struggling to distribute the vaccine to our residents in an expeditious and equitable way,” the Democrat said in a letter to Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, echoing complaints of local leaders throughout the U.S.

The company’s single-dose vaccine is awaiting emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. In July, Johnson & Johnson tapped Emergent BioSolutions, a Gaithersburg-based company, for a five-year vaccine manufacturing contract. The first two years of the contract are valued at about $480 million, per a news release from Emergent BioSolutions.   

Emergent BioSolutions will manufacture the vaccines at its Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing facility in Southeast Baltimore.

 “The CIADM has the capacity to produce tens to hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine on an annual basis, based upon the platform technology being used,” the news release said. 

Scott has proposed that Johnson & Johnson allow the city to buy 300,000 of those doses, noting that the company will benefit from the medical expertise and skills of Baltimore residents. To date, the city has administered nearly 44,000 doses through the Health Department and 11 hospitals. 

“Unfortunately, due to the prioritization dedicated to us by the state and the extraordinarily low supply provided to the city, only 3.4% of the city’s Black residents have received their dose of the vaccine—that is unacceptable,” Scott wrote.  The city’s health department distributed less than 20% of these doses. 


The federal government holds the first right of purchase to all coronavirus vaccines, due to Operation Warp Speed. Scott said he will request the federal government make an exception to allow Johnson & Johnson to sell doses directly to Baltimore. "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take," he said at a news conference. 



Should the purchase happen, Scott wrote, he will launch a task force composed of representatives from Johnson & Johnson, the health department, medical experts and community leaders to determine a distribution strategy. 


“Johnson & Johnson has the opportunity through this partnership to focus first on equity by ensuring distribution to Black and Brown communities that have been historically underserved by Big Pharma,” Scott wrote.  


Sen. Chris Van Hollen told city lawmakersduring a Monday afternoon meeting that Maryland is in the "back of the pack" of vaccine distribution, calling the state’s system “very broken.” 


“Right now it feels like a total free for all,” the Democrat remarked.


Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.
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