By Joseph Chalfant
An overabundance of stockpiles may lead to millions of unused Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines expiring by the end of June.
Across the country, the supply of vaccines has dramatically outnumbered the demand. As the vaccination rate has climbed, the pace to complete vaccination for the country has slowed substantially. At the distribution peak in April, 3.4 million vaccines were administered per day. That number dropped to 960,000 vaccinations on June 7.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) decision to pause the use of the J&J vaccine has also contributed to the dose backlog. That recommendation came after a series of adverse reactions drew concerns over the safety of J&J’s vaccine variant.
While general estimates are known, it is unclear how many vaccines could be lost. According to Reuters, at least 13 lots of vaccines are set to expire by June 27 or sooner, and J&J has another 100 million doses preparing for shipment.
The Biden Administration urged state and local governments to coordinate with the FDA on extending the shelf life of expiring vaccines to reduce as much waste as possible.
“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,” said COVID-19 Advisor Andy Slavitt.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has spoken urgently about the need to expedite vaccine administration.
“For Ohioans who have been waiting to get their vaccine, I urge you to take action now. There are many opportunities throughout the state to get a vaccine,” DeWine said in a news release. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one of those options. It is safe and effective and only requires one shot.”
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Gov. DeWine’s statement came with the news that nearly 200,000 J&J doses were set to expire in Ohio on June 23.
The problem may not be limited to the J&J vaccine, according to the Wall Street Journal. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are also at risk for expiring later in the summer as their expiry dates roll around.
The J&J vaccine has a shorter shelf life when compared to its Pfizer and Modera counterparts. The J&J vaccine remains frozen until shipment, where it is then refrigerated and sustainable for three months. Pfizer is sustainable for up to six months, and Moderna can remain frozen for up to six months and refrigerated for an additional month.
While many vaccines in the U.S. are set to expire, the country is prepared to export at least 20 million vaccines abroad by the end of the month. Officials say that an unused vaccine stockpile could pressure the Biden Administration into offloading further doses to developing nations, according to the Wall Street Journal.