Millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine are set to expire this month — leading to urgent trials to see if the shots’ shelf life can be extended, a White House adviser confirmed Tuesday.
Demand for all coronavirus vaccines has plummeted since mid-April, but the drop has been significantly steeper for J&J’s one-dose shot after it was temporarily halted in April over blood-clot fears.
Close to half of the 21 million doses the company has produced for the US now remain unused — with millions set to expire by the end of June, according to the Wall Street Journal.
While demand has also slowed for vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, around 83 percent of the doses produced for the US have been administered, the paper said.
Shots from both companies can be stored for six months, compared to just three months for J&J doses — with the pharmaceutical giant testing to see if that can be extended to save them.
White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt also confirmed Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration is “looking at opportunities for continued storage” of the unused shots.
“I would encourage every governor who has doses that they worry may be expiring to work with the FDA directly on the proper storage procedures as they continue to examine processes that will allow them to potentially last longer,” Slavitt said on a Tuesday press call.
Asked about the WSJ report, Slavitt insisted that it amounted to a “very, very small fraction of doses that have been sent out to states that will ultimately not be used.”
“It’s not realistic to expect that not a single dose will go to waste. I will tell you that a very very small fraction of the doses that have been sent to states that are in the hundreds of millions will end up not being used,” he said.
Slavitt said the government is “working aggressively … to try to get those doses into arms.”
Some states have asked for permission to ship the unwanted doses to developing nations rather than see them wasted, the WSJ said.
However, doing so faces significant logistical and legal hurdles, with many needy nations not having the tools in place to administer them, the United Nations Children’s Fund told the outlet.
More than a dozen states have given at least one COVID-19 shot to 70 percent of adults or more, Slavitt said Tuesday.
However, as of Monday, 63.7 percent of adults in the US have received at least one dose — with plummeting demand threatening President Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of adults vaccinated by July 4.
While the J&J shot was allowed to resume on April 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises women under 50 to “especially be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination.”
With Post wires