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World

White House promises more J&J COVID-19 shots after launch stalls

  • The healthcare conglomerate has only shipped around 4.25 million doses in total, according to federal data, far less than the 20 million it promised to deliver by the end of March.
Published March 22, 2021 Updated March 23, 2021

Johnson & Johnson should come close to hitting its target of delivering 20 million doses of its one-shot COVID-19 vaccine in March after its shipments stalled in recent weeks, a top White House official said on Monday, while declining to say how many will go out this week.

The company shipped four million shots in early March but its rollout has since stalled as facilities involved in the manufacturing await clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

J&J's COVID-19 vaccine was authorized by U.S. regulators in February, making it the third to be cleared for use in the United States and the first that requires just one injection for immunization.

The healthcare conglomerate has only shipped around 4.25 million doses in total, according to federal data, far less than the 20 million it promised to deliver by the end of March.

Only 2.3 million J&J doses had been administered as of Sunday morning.

"I'm not going to give you precise numbers," White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said on a Monday press call.

"I wouldn't signal to you that they're going to be far away from the numbers that they have projected," he said.

J&J did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Initial U.S. doses have been made at the company's plant in Leiden, the Netherlands. J&J has been waiting on the FDA to approve plants of outside contract manufacturers that will produce the vaccine, such as Catalent Inc.

"We're gonna see a nice increase in Johnson and Johnson this week," Slavitt said, without specifying. "Obviously, they've got a lot of increases that they need to be committed to doing."

J&J's vaccine, which can be stored in a standard refrigerator rather than requiring freezing, was 67% effective at stopping moderate-to-severe cases of COVID-19 after 14 days from shot administration, according to trial data. It also prevented hospitalizations and deaths.

The United States has delivered more than 150 million COVID-19 shots and administered nearly 125 million doses, according to federal data last updated on Sunday.

However, a top health official on Monday said she is "very concerned" that a leveling off of COVID-19 cases after a period of decline could signal a risk of renewed outbreaks as the United States works to get more people vaccinated.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said public health officials should act now to stop further spread of infections, especially as highly contagious new virus variants continue to infect more people.

"I am worried that if you don't act now, you will have another avoidable surge just as we are seeing in Europe right now," Walensky said on the press call.

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