‘Big drop’ in shipment of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, hampering Virginia efforts to vaccinate college students

COVID-19 Vaccine

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — The amount of Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine Virginia will receive next week is down significantly and the state’s vaccination coordinator said it could hamper their efforts to vaccinate college students.

Virginia will receive 14,800 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a more than 100,000-dose drop from the previous week.

Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, said Friday that the commonwealth was expecting a similar shipment of 124,000 doses for health districts next week but the federal government informed state health officials allocations of J&J would be down nationwide.

Last week, a New York Times report said that workers at an Emergent BioSolutions facility in Baltimore, which produced both AstraZeneca Plc and J&J doses, mixed up ingredients of the two vaccines, ruining 15 million J&J doses.

However, the Baltimore facility has not yet been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and a federal health official told Reuters last week that none of the vaccine doses from the plant have been used in vaccination efforts so far.

“Definitely a big drop from what we were hoping to get, but it won’t impact how we move into Phase 2,” Dr. Avula said in an interview. “It has two main implications. It can slow down our progression [in Phase 2] and limit the total number of appointments.”

Avula noted that with multiple health districts already moving into Phase 2 of Virginia’s vaccination plan and shipments of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines remaining steady, he still expects everyone 16 and over to be eligible to receive a shot in the commonwealth by April 18.

He said the shortage of J&J vaccines will most affect the state’s vaccination efforts at colleges and universities.

He said clinics scheduled for next week may have to be pushed back by “a week or two.”

He said this will make it challenging to vaccinate the student population — typically between 18 and 22 — before the spring semesters end.

“[College students] behaviors, their adherence to mitigation factors, they are spreaders of disease so epidemiologically there are great benefits to us prioritizing that population before they spread all over the state and all over the country,” Avula said.

Avula said starting April 18 the state’s pre-registration portal will switch to an open scheduler.

Those looking to receive a shot will be able to submit their information and pick the date and time of their appointment in one visit.

“We hope to open up appointments as far in advance as possible,” Avula said. “Ideally we’d like to have a three or four-week runway of appointments. The fluctuation of Johnson & Johnson allocation does make that a little bit more challenging but we know the number of first doses we’ll be receiving for Moderna and Pfizer at that time so we’ll at least be able to map out first dose appointments.”

Avula is confident everyone who wants to receive a vaccine will be able to by the end of May.

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