New York and New Jersey officials are monitoring the situation with Johnson & Johnson, after reports of a production delay with the drugmaker's COVID-19 vaccine. The single shot from the New Jersey-based company is vital to New York’s vaccination expansion, especially for reaching vulnerable populations such as homebound seniors and the homeless.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that a mix-up by a manufacturing partner in Baltimore--Emergent Biosolutions--had damaged 15 million doses of the vaccine, adding that the error does not impact any current doses in circulation.
Federal regulators deliver vaccine doses to states on a weekly basis--a practice that raises the possibility of shortages anytime there is an interruption in the supply chain. Remember that the city almost ran out of shots and some providers had to reschedule appointments when snowstorms hit in February. Some of those cancellations were due to providers planning ahead and booking doses before the state had confirmed the size of their future allocations.
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A spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday as long as clinics and hospitals haven’t done that again, then appointments should be fine through at least next week.
“We have determined that doses will be available for all appointments scheduled at State-run mass vaccination sites and the issue should not impact appointments at other providers if they followed state guidance and did not book appointments beyond next week’s allocation,” Jack Sterne, a spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement. Mayor Bill De Blasio’s office and the city's health officials likewise said it is monitoring the situation and that they'll share more information when they get it.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has called the Johnson & Johnson vaccine a “game-changer” because its single dose could help ensure more equitable vaccine distribution across the state, particularly to Black and Latino residents. (The two other COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in the U.S., produced by Pfizer and Moderna, require two doses spaced weeks apart.) The state has designed much of its community outreach around the Johnson & Johnson vaccines that can be stored in regular refrigerators and don’t need any follow-up booster appointments.
That includes plans to equip three mobile units with Johnson & Johnson doses that will target areas where residents don’t have access to transportation or high-speed internet to make online appointments. The one-shot doses are also being used by local health departments to inoculate home-bound residents.
On Wednesday, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the state will receive 131,600 Johnson & Johnson doses next week—a 150% increase from this week’s supply.
New Jersey health officials said they did not expect the Baltimore factory mix-up to impact next week's allocation but did not address future shipments.
Johnson & Johnson, the New Brunswick-based drugmaker, referred Gothamist/WNYC to a statement released Wednesday that did not hint at any alteration in its plan to safely deliver 24 million doses of its vaccines in April. The company did not answer specific questions about potential delays to vaccine shipments in the region.