Too early to tell how J&J snag will impact vaccinations in Hawaii

  • Syringes loaded with shots of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the pharmacy of National Jewish Hospital for distribution early Saturday, March 6, 2021, in east Denver. Volunteers worked with nurses and physicians from National Jewish to administer 2,500 vaccinations of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that requires a single shot instead of two like the other vaccines. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Although millions of doses of the Johnson &Johnson vaccine manufactured on the mainland had to be destroyed because of quality concerns, state health officials do not yet know how the production issues will affect allocations to Hawaii.

Johnson &Johnson last week had to scrap 15 million doses of its single-shot vaccine after a batch made by Emergent BioSolutions at its Baltimore factory failed quality standards and could not be used, the Associated Press reported.

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According to the New York Times, Emergent said it would destroy the vaccines after contamination with the AstraZeneca vaccine was discovered.

The New York Times on Wednesday also reported that another 62 million doses of the Johnson &Johnson vaccine made at the Baltimore plant are in jeopardy until it can be determined whether they also were contaminated.

According to the Times, the factory produced about 150 million doses of vaccines from both Johnson &Johnson and AstraZeneca as of last week.

“But so far, not a single dose has been usable because regulators have not yet certified the factory to allow the vaccines to be distributed to the public,” the Times reported.

To date, 45,000 doses of the Johnson &Johnson vaccine have been allocated to Hawaii through the state Department of Health, said spokesman Brooks Baehr. Hawaii County has received 6,200.

According to Baehr, the DOH will receive 21,300 doses this week, 3,000 of which will come to the Big Island.

He did not know how many doses of the Johnson &Johnson vaccine have been administered statewide.

“We do not know what effect, if any, the spoiled doses at the Baltimore plant may have on Johnson &Johnson allotments to Hawaii,” Baehr said. “However, we are expecting to receive in the neighborhood of only 2,000 Johnson &Johnson doses next week. Again, this week we are getting 21,300 doses.”

But interest in the vaccine remains strong.

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“Some people say they prefer the single-dose regiment,” Baehr said. “Others tell us Johnson &Johnson is right for them because it does the job by protecting against severe illness, hospitalization and death.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.