Why Are 10 Million Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccines Sitting On The Shelves in the US?


Almost half of the 21 million doses of Johnson & Johnson (J&J)’s COVID vaccines produced for the United States are sitting unused, Reuters reports

As of June 6, 302 million doses of COVID vaccines have been administered in the United States. J&J’s single-dose shot accounts for approximately just 5% of that total. 

Although global demand for COVID vaccines is high, in the US, demand for vaccinations in general has slowed down. And demand for the J&J shot in the US is virtually nil. 

Health authorities were hoping that J&J’s jab would be especially attractive for serving rural residents. That’s because J&J’s single-dose is easier to adhere to for eldery residents, which make up the majority of rural communities. The two other COVID vaccines approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA in the USA, Pfizer and Moderna, both require two shots, spaced roughly four weeks apart. 

Furthermore, the J&J shot does not require storage at subfreezing temperatures like Pfizer and Moderna. 

So why has demand for J&J’s COVID vaccine slumped? 

According to Reuters, safety concerns has been a big issue, leading to less than 650,000 Americans receiving J&J’s shot. Although overall demand for COVID vaccines has waned, J&J has experienced the most significant drop, Reuters reports. 

Last Thursday, the White House announced it would send some 25 million vaccine doses around the world. J&J’s vaccine will be among the donated vaccines; the doses if left sitting in the United States unused would expire as early as later this month. 

Reuters reports 13 lots of J&J’s vaccine, which have a shelf life of 3 months, are set to expire June 27. 

J&J’s COVID vaccine, which is not being sold at profit by the company, was paused two months ago, following reports of blood clots and low platelet counts in a small number of individuals. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show 32 people have developed severe health complications from J&J’s shot, with adult women under 50 the most likely to experience the complications.

One Colorado woman has been in a coma for nearly a month after receiving the J&J shot, Colorado news station, KOAA reports. The woman’s lawyer told KOAA that vaccine producers such as J&J “have blanket immunity from liability.” For those injured by vaccines, a system called the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) is available. However, according to the injured woman’s attorney, the CICP denies nine of every ten claims it receives and poorly compensates accepted claims. Thus far, the woman who fell into a coma allegedly because of the J&J vaccine, has accumulated medical bills total of approximately $1 million.

The same month the pause on J&J’s vaccine was announced, the company had to recall 15 million doses of its COVID vaccine because a manufacturing plant in Baltimore had cross-contaminated the shot with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. In addition, the plant was found to have had numerous quality assurance problems. Reuters says that no new doses of J&J’s COVID vaccine have been produced in the US since nearly a month ago. 

Despite the documented cases of blood clots supposedly from the J&J shot and the negative publicity over the Baltimore manufacturing plant, there is still a sliver of demand for J&J’s vaccine, particularly among the elderly. Seniors are believed to be at a lower risk of developing the potentially life-threatening clots. 

Suggested reading: 

Can Johnson & Johnson Be Trusted To Produce A Safe & Effective COVID-19 Vaccine?


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