Sharp drop in J&J vaccine delivery in the US next week: CDC data

Washington (AFP) –

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Deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in the United States are set to drop off sharply next week, US health authorities said Friday, stoking further unease about the pharmaceutical giant's production abilities.

The number of J&J shots distributed to US states will fall from 4.9 million in the week ending April 5 to just 700,000 by the week ending April 12, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The company had promise to deliver "at or near" 100 million of its one-shot doses by the end of May, and is still vowing to meet that target.

But last week it emerged that a batch of some 15 million doses had been accidentally spoiled at a plant in Baltimore.

Ingredients meant to be used in another vaccine, made by AstraZeneca, were mixed up with those destined for the J&J shot, The New York Times reported.

The mix-up was detected during quality controls and the defective doses never left the factory, which is still waiting to be officially authorized to supply the vaccine.

Since then, production of AstraZeneca's vaccine has been moved away from the Baltimore plant, managed by partner company Emergent BioSolutions, and J&J officials have been dispatched to oversee operations.

Johnson & Johnson said Saturday it was "assuming full responsibility" for the incident, vowing to work in "full cooperation" with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to obtain authorization to produce its vaccine in the Baltimore facility.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, which has the major logistical advantage of being administered in a single dose, was granted emergency use authorization in the United States at the end of February, following approval for rivals Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

J&J delivered 20 million doses in March to the United States, meeting its production target, and "24 million is the target that the company has committed to for April," said Jeff Zients, the White House coordinator for the fight against Covid-19, last week.

"Moderna and Pfizer are now in a steady cadence [of delivery], week to week. That's not something that Johnson & Johnson has yet achieved," he said.