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With J&J's vaccine, the US will have enough coronavirus shots for every adult in May, Biden says. Here's your vaccination timeline.

Aria Bendix   

With J&J's vaccine, the US will have enough coronavirus shots for every adult in May, Biden says. Here's your vaccination timeline.
  • The US has authorized three coronavirus vaccines: from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer.
  • With the doses from J&J, the US could finish vaccinating priority groups in March.
  • The US could distribute 500 million doses by the end of May — enough to vaccinate all of its adult population.

A shot for every American. Political leaders and vaccine manufacturers have endeavored to meet this goal since the start of the pandemic, and it could finally become a reality by the end of spring.

The vaccination campaign got a major boost last weekend, when the Food and Drug Administration greenlit Johnson & Johnson's single-dose coronavirus shot - the third coronavirus vaccine to be distributed across the US. The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been administered to more than 78 million Americans thus far, though fewer than 26 million Americans have gotten the full two-dose regimen.

Pfizer and Moderna have pledged to distribute a total of 600 million doses to the US public by the end of July - enough to fully vaccinate 300 million people. J&J, meanwhile, recently said it could deliver up to 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of May, thanks in part to a new partnership with Merck.

That means that before the start of summer, the US would have more than enough doses to vaccinate all 332 million-plus Americans (though shots haven't been authorized for children under 16 yet).

Here's a timeline of how vaccinations could ramp up in the next five months:

  • March 31: 240 million doses distributed
  • May 31: 500 million doses distributed
  • July 31: 700 million doses distributed

Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines are each more than 90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, while J&J's appears to be 66% effective at preventing moderate and severe cases. It's difficult to compare the companies' trials side-by-side, though, since they happened at different stages in the pandemic and in different geographic regions.

End of March: Wrapping up vaccinations for priority groups

J&J originally planned to deliver 12 million doses by the end of February. But federal officials have said that just 3 to 4 million doses would be immediately available this week.

By the end of March, the company will likely have produced 20 million doses, Richard Nettles, J&J's vice president of US medical affairs, said at a House committee hearing in February.

Pfizer and Moderna, meanwhile, are on track to distribute a cumulative 220 million doses by March 31.

At the February House hearing, Pfizer's chief business officer, John Young, said the company intends to make 120 million doses available by the end of March. Roughly 40 million of those doses have been administered so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Moderna's president, Stephen Hoge, said the company would deliver 100 million doses within the same time frame. The CDC reports that more than 38 million of those doses have been administered already.

That means the US could finish vaccinating priority groups - including the elderly, essential workers, and people with high-risk medical conditions - this month. The CDC estimates that these groups encompass roughly 200 million people.

Vaccinations for the general public could be in full swing by April.

End of May: All adults could have access to a shot

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced that J&J would produce 100 million total doses by the end of May, one month earlier than the company previously planned. The accelerated timeline was made possible by J&J's partnership with Merck, another pharmaceutical giant that will assist with manufacturing.

In total, J&J, Moderna, and Pfizer are expected to deliver around 500 million doses by the end of May. That's enough to vaccinate 300 million people, or all of the roughly 259 million adults in the US.

Pfizer is on track to produce an additional 80 million doses by the end of May, bringing the company's US total to 200 million. Moderna originally planned to deliver an additional 100 million doses in the US by the end of June, but now those should arrive in May as well.

Both companies are still working to speed up their vaccine rollouts.

Pfizer told USA TODAY it has added more production lines at its manufacturing plants, reduced the amount of time it takes to produce vaccine batches, and will soon cut down the time it takes to make DNA for the vaccines. In January, the FDA also instructed vaccinators to squeeze six doses from every vial of Pfizer's vaccine, rather than the five that were initially authorized in December.

Hoge said Moderna is "working to enable up to 15 doses per vial in the near term," instead of the 10 that vaccinators extract right now.

A recent report from the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank, estimated that 75% of the US population could be protected from COVID-19 by mid- to late June.

End of July: The US could have a surplus of doses

By the end of July, the US could have more vaccines than it's able to distribute.

Experts don't expect the nation's roughly 73 million children to start getting coronavirus shots until the fall or winter - or perhaps early 2022 - because there is not yet data about the vaccines' safety or efficacy among younger age groups. (The exception is Pfizer's shot, which is authorized for ages 16 and up.)

Both Pfizer and Moderna intend to deliver another 100 million doses each by the end of July, bringing the companies' total doses to 300 million each. The US hasn't purchased more than that, though it has the option to buy 200 million more doses each from J&J, Moderna, and Pfizer.

This article has been updated with new information. It was originally published on February 25, 2021.