Amid a months-long decline in daily vaccinations in the United States, the pitfalls of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine rollout have resulted in millions of unused doses, public skepticism and a diminished role in the rollout. vaccine in the country.
Johnson & Johnson aimed to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine to states by the end of May, but less than 22 million have been shipped to states so far, according to CDC data. The bite currently represents less than 4% of doses administered nationally.
In Washington state, the lack of supply has curtailed plans to target the hardest-to-reach communities with the vaccine and to integrate the vaccine into the state’s wider rollout, Dr Umair Shah said. , Secretary of State for Health.
“There were interruptions, there were concerns, and there was even a hiatus,” he said. “And because of that, he sometimes really didn’t keep that promise that we would all have loved here for the J&J vaccine.”
The shortage is due at least in part to the major setback the company faced in late March when it revealed that a batch of materials for its vaccine had to be thrown away. Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS This Morning that human error has contaminated and ruined 15 million doses at the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Maryland, forcing regulators to stop the production process.
On Friday, the FDA cleared the use of two batches of vaccine drug substances made at the Emergent plant. A source told CBS News that authorization would release approximately 10 million doses for use in the United States and abroad. The East Baltimore facility isworldwide used by Johnson & Johnson for the first stage of its vaccine production.
State and federal health officials have also faced public hesitation on two fronts: efficiency and safety. The company has shown lower overall efficacy rates than the two mRNA candidates, Pfizer and Moderna, even though all three vaccines successfully protect against serious illness and death. It was further backed down after the CDC and FDA suspended use of the vaccine while a federal advisory board investigated cases of rare blood clots that occurred primarily in women under the age of 50. Ultimately, after 10 days, the panel reaffirmed its recommendation for use by anyone 18 or older, with a disclaimer added to the vaccine label.
While health officials support the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, polls suggest the message may not have resonated, especially among those who were already hesitant about vaccines.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in March found that over 50% of unvaccinated Americans who said they would rather wait and see how others reacted to the vaccine before receiving one said they would definitely get one. or probably the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. But in April, after the hiatus, only 28% of people in that category said they were very or somewhat confident in the safety of the vaccine.
Dr Grace Lee, who is both a member of the CDC’s advisory committee that evaluated the vaccine’s safety and chair of a working group within the federal advisory board, acknowledged that any pause on a vaccine will likely raise questions. on his safety. But she echoed a repeated response by health officials nationwide: This diligent surveillance should engender confidence.
“It’s less information about a particular vaccine, it’s really how we deal with the decision-making around it,” she said.
In recent weeks, representatives from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) have had discussions with the CDC and the White House after learning that member states have suspended vaccine doses, especially doses of Johnson & Johnson, which were nearing expiration, Dr. Nirav Shah, president of the organization and director of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CBS News. The organization sent a list of political considerations to the administration, including sending these doses overseas and working with the FDA to extend the vaccine’s expiration date.
Johnson & Johnson announced on Thursday that they have extended the shelf life of the vaccine by 50%, from three months to four and a half months. A source familiar with the matter told CBS News before the ruling that hundreds of thousands of doses were about to expire.
As other states contemplate their options with doses of J&J that they don’t plan to use, Dr Umair Shah has expressed both optimism and hesitation about future use.
“What worries me is whether the time that could have really helped us with the J&J vaccine has already passed somewhat?” he said.
In a statement, the company said it remained “committed to helping end this deadly pandemic as quickly as possible.”
“We continue to work with the US government and health authorities to support the use of our vaccine, which continues to play an important role, including among those who want to be fully immunized in one shot.”
While the time for the vaccine to make its biggest dent may be over, it remains crucial in certain circumstances, including settings where it would be difficult to schedule a second dose. A CDC poll in April during the recess found that more than 50% of U.S. states and territories were using the J&J vaccine to immunize people who are homeless, people behind bars and those who cannot leave their homes.
Dr Nirav Shah says his condition continues to see “strong demand” for vaccines through mobile vaccination units. Its strategy for maintaining its use has been to maximize convenience and provide a physician on site to answer patient questions.
“Of course it’s more intensive, it’s not 1,000 or 3,000 people a day, it’s okay, it’s not necessary,” he said in an interview last month. “But I think that’s the key for those people who are either motivated by convenience … or have serious questions.”
Elsewhere in the country, convenience is favored, including in northwest Indiana, where Beth Wrobel, CEO of HealthLinc, a local community health center, said her team used the J&J vaccine during vaccination events with approximately 10 different manufacturing sites in the region. Tom Dermody, mayor of La Porte, Indiana, who has partnered with the clinic to administer vaccines in the city, said that for some, the single-dose vaccine remains ideal. But both officials made it clear that demand has definitely declined.
Dr Umair Shah pointed out that as the pool of unvaccinated people wanting to get vaccinated continues to shrink, J & J’s vaccine remains an attractive option for those who face more barriers to vaccination.
“This is where a single vaccine is going to be very useful, it just would have been more useful if we could have had it from the start,” he said.
Alexander Tin contributed reporting.