Millions of unused J&J vaccines set to expire this month

Millions of COVID-19 vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson are set to expire in June, and hospitals and health departments are struggling to figure out what to do with them, The Wall Street Journal reported June 8. 

The surplus is due in part to the FDA's decision in April to temporarily suspend use of Johnosn & Johnson's vaccine while it investigated rare cases of blood clots following vaccination. Large blocks of appointments for the shot were canceled and never rescheduled, the Journal reported. The pause also contributed to an increase in hesitancy to take Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, according to the Journal.

Johnson & Johnson's shot can be refrigerated for three months, and the drugmaker is studying if the shelf life can be extended. After the shots expire, CDC guidance says to destroy or discard the shots. 

The exact number of expiring shots isn't known because providers aren't required to report it to the federal government, Jessica Daley, vice president of strategic supplier engagement at Premier, a group purchasing organization, told the Journal

There are few practical ways to use the shots quickly before they expire in the U.S. or distribute them to other countries, experts told the Journal. Some hospitals and health departments have begun special promotions to encourage the use of Johnson & Johnson's shots before they expire. Some health systems have redistributed their leftover shots both inside and outside their systems, and some states have redistributed them to physician offices, pharmacies or other states, the Journal reported. 

Some states have asked the federal government if they can ship their surplus doses to developing nations, but doing so introduces significant logistical and legal challenges, the United Nations Children's Fund told the Journal. Developing nations are wary of using the shots after their expiration dates and may not be able to administer them quickly. 

Andy Slavitt, the White House's COVID-19 adviser, said during a June 8 news conference that the federal government is encouraging governors to consult with the FDA on storage procedures for the vaccine and that the agency is examining how to extend the shots' shelf life, The New York Times reported.

He added that it would be a "very, very small fraction of doses that have been sent out to states that ultimately will not be used" and the wasted doses wouldn't have a significant impact on the U.S.' commitment to distribute vaccines globally. 

Just over half of the 21.4 million Johnson & Johnson shots distributed to providers have been given to people, according to CDC data, compared to 83 percent of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. 

Read the Journal's full article here


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