By Jared S. Hopkins and Betsy McKay
The U.S. government has halted new shipments of the Johnson
& Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, according to state and federal
health officials, one of several steps federal agencies are taking
that could help clear a backlog of unused doses before they
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped
making available the one-dose shot to states, the state and federal
health officials said. The stoppage is believed to be temporary,
some of these officials said.
Health officials from Maryland, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan,
Illinois and other states said they haven't been able to order new
supplies of J&J doses in recent weeks. Some also said they have
sufficient supply of the vaccine.
"It just hasn't been included in our weekly allocations, from
the feds, which means it is not available to order," said Oklahoma
State Department of Health Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed.
The move comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
separately extended the shelf life of J&J's vaccine to 4 1/2
months from three months once refrigerated, the drugmaker said
It couldn't be determined why the federal government suspended
the shipments, but the policy change comes as both federal and
state health officials are trying to use up J&J doses that have
sat on shelves so long they are set to expire.
Public-health experts say the suspension of shipments and the
vaccine's shelf-life extension should prevent a further buildup in
J&J doses and allow the existing stockpiles to be drawn down,
minimizing the destruction of expiring doses.
The new expiration date "helps with the immediate issue of them
not ending up in the trash can," said Amesh Adalja, senior scholar
at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. He said it is
crucial for states and the federal government to keep working to
expand access and bring the vaccine to areas that need it. "They
really just have to pull out all the stops and not waste the
Asked to comment on the government's decision to limit
availability of the vaccine to states, a J&J spokesman said,
"We continue to work with the U.S. government and health
authorities to support the use of our vaccine, which continues to
play an important role, including among those who wish to be fully
vaccinated with one shot."
Just over half of the approximately 21 million J&J doses
distributed in the U.S. have been administered, a lower percentage
compared with shots from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., according to
Hospital and state officials said they have many J&J doses
expiring later this month, partly as an unintended consequence of
the U.S.'s decision in April to temporarily suspend administration
of J&J doses to assess a rare blood-clot risk.
The pause forced states and providers to cancel large blocks of
appointments that were never rescheduled and left a surplus of
supply and, in some areas, increased hesitancy over the J&J
The J&J vaccine was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration in February after researchers found it to be
effective in a large-scale trial at protecting against symptomatic
While its efficacy was slightly lower than Pfizer and Moderna
shots, public-health officials and vaccine experts had high hopes
for the shot's role in the vaccine drive -- because it was a
single-shot and required fewer cold-chain restrictions.
J&J stores doses frozen until shipment by the government, at
which point they are refrigerated. That is when the countdown
starts for expiration.
State health officials said they haven't been able to order new
doses of the J&J shot since mid-May. The CDC has been
restricting orders of the J&J vaccine, the federal health
A spokeswoman for the Arkansas state health department said it
was informed that no doses were available for ordering because of
issues related to the manufacturing of the vaccine.
Maryland last ordered J&J doses several weeks ago and has
since been told by the government that the vaccine isn't available,
Maryland Department of Health Assistant Secretary Bryan Mroz said
in an interview. Federal officials say J&J's shot will become
available again but didn't say when that would be, he said.
"We've been using up our inventory in the state," Mr. Mroz. "We
definitely have more supply than demand."
Mr. Mroz said that some doses will expire at the end of June and
others in July and that the state is working to redistribute some
to providers who request them.
A Maryland spokesman said Thursday the state would follow the
new FDA guidelines extending the vaccine's shelf life. "We are
focused on getting as many of the approximately 74,000 J&J
doses into as many arms as possible before they expire per the new
FDA shelf-life guidelines," he said.
The extended expiration date is likely to help states and
providers that have been seeking guidance from the federal
government on what to do with the expiring doses.
Thomas M. Burton and Julie Wernau contributed to this
Write to Jared S. Hopkins at firstname.lastname@example.org and Betsy
McKay at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 10, 2021 17:59 ET (21:59 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.