Biden to make 1st visit to Baltimore as president next week, will talk about COVID vaccine with drug companies

President Joe Biden will make his first visit to Baltimore as chief executive next week, visiting a plant that is making coronavirus vaccine as the federal government tries to significantly ramp up supplies of the shots.

The president is scheduled to appear Wednesday with the CEOs of drugmakers Johnson & Johnson and Merck at Emergent BioSolutions, according to the White House.


Emergent BioSolutions’ plant in East Baltimore has been making coronavirus vaccine for months. Among the pharmaceutical companies contracting with Emergent is Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine was granted emergency use authorization a week ago by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We look forward to welcoming President Biden to Emergent BioSolutions’ Baltimore Bayview facility, where our employees have been working around the clock to help combat this pandemic,” said Robert G. Kramer, president and CEO at Emergent BioSolutions.


Johnson & Johnson’s product joined two other vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States. It is the first available vaccine in the U.S. to use one shot, rather than two.

The nation’s vaccine rollout has been marked by a supply shortage, which the Democratic president has promised to help remedy and which the Johnson & Johnson immunization could help alleviate. The administration said Friday that 82 million shots have been administered so far.

The distribution has left Black people lagging behind others in Baltimore and elsewhere, Democratic
Mayor Brandon Scott noted Friday.

“We know President Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris understand the importance of cities and how they’ve been impacted,” Scott said. “They also understand the importance of Black and brown and poor communities and how they’ve been impacted.”

Scott suggested he would like to discuss the racial inequity issues with Biden. The mayor didn’t say a meeting had been scheduled, and the White House did not release details Friday on the timing of the visit or who else will be invited. However, the visit will not be open to the public.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s office has been notified of the president’s planned visit and is awaiting details, said Mike Ricci, a spokesman for the Republican governor.

On Tuesday, Biden announced a partnership under which Merck, a pharmaceutical rival of Johnson & Johnson, will help make the J&J vaccine.

“This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II,” the president said. He said the administration was invoking the Defense Production Act to equip two Merck facilities to safely manufacture the vaccine.


The visit to Baltimore is one of the first trips outside Washington for the new president. He has visited COVID-19 vaccine maker Pfizer in Michigan, hosted a televised town hall in Wisconsin and surveyed severe winter storm damage in Texas.

A White House news release said the visit is to include the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck, who are Alex Gorsky and Kenneth Frazier, respectively.

Johnson & Johnson did not respond to a request for comment, and Merck would not confirm or comment on Frazier’s attendance in Baltimore.

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In 2017, Frazier was the first business leader to resign from an advisory jobs panel created by then-President Donald Trump after the Republican was widely criticized for not quickly denouncing groups that marched at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” Frazier said at the time.

Trump had a stormy relationship with Democratic-dominated Baltimore.


In 2019, Trump launched a string of tweets and comments attacking then-U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, as well as the congressman’s hometown of Baltimore and his 7th Congressional District. Trump called the city “rat and rodent infested.”

Trump later told lawmakers at a 2019 Republican retreat that the GOP was “going to fight for the future of cities like Baltimore that have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule.”

Biden won 65% percent of Maryland’s vote and 87.2% of the vote in Baltimore City in 2020. He also attracted significant fundraising support from the Baltimore area and the wealthy Washington suburbs of Chevy Chase and Potomac.

Baltimore Sun reporters Hallie Miller, Emily Opilo and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.