Millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine were ruined after a mistake at a Baltimore manufacturing facility last week. The Biden administration has commissioned Johnson & Johnson with the system, it announced on Saturday.
The facility, owned by manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions, previously produced two types of Covid-19 vaccines, of which only the Johnson & Johnson emergency shot was approved in the United States. Now Johnson & Johnson will be the only vaccine made at the facility if the company takes control, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in late February, is a single vaccine, unlike the mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna, which require two doses to be fully effective All that is required for storage is a refrigerator, not a freezer.
It’s also hugely effective – results from clinical trials suggest it prevents about 85 percent of “major and critical cases of Covid-19” and 100 percent of deaths and hospitalizations after four weeks – despite some early concerns about how it is going Shot by Johnson & Johnson builds up against the Pfizer and Moderna shots.
As Vox’s Umox Irfan explained last month,
[Johnson & Johnson] reported that its overall effectiveness in preventing Covid-19 cases that caused symptoms was 66.1 percent. The Moderna vaccine and Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines reported effectiveness levels of around 95 percent.
This gap in effectiveness numbers is fueling some people’s perception that the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is not that good.
According to Dr. However, Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins University makes such a direct comparison difficult, and the vaccines are “fundamentally interchangeable”.
“I don’t even look at these effectiveness numbers and compare them head to head,” Adalja told Vox. “Biostate 101: Such test results can only be compared if they have been carried out directly.”
In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said it would “take full responsibility” for manufacturing at its Baltimore facility and would “significantly” increase its workforce there.
According to the Times, the bug that sparked Saturday’s announcement – and ruined about 15 million vaccine doses – came after a mix-up between various vaccine vectors used by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca that are incompatible.
However, Johnson & Johnson stressed in a statement Wednesday that the company will continue to apply for emergency clearance for Emergent’s Baltimore facility and will continue to meet vaccine delivery targets.
Johnson & Johnson is expected to dispense approximately 24 million additional vaccine doses by the end of April and a total of nearly 100 million vaccine doses by the end of May. President Joe Biden has pledged that every U.S. adult will be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine by May 1, and recently set a new target of 200 million firearms by the end of their first 100 days in office.
In a statement Saturday, AstraZeneca, which is developing the other vaccine made at Emergent’s Baltimore facility, said it was working to identify “an alternate location” for manufacturing.
The US invested in stockpiling AstraZeneca cans for use in the US last year pending emergency clearance pending approval, according to the New York Times.
However, even before Saturday, AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine was struggling as the company hopes it will be the fourth coronavirus vaccine to receive emergency approval in the US.
In March, an independent advisory board to the National Institutes of Health criticized the company for using “outdated and potentially misleading” efficacy data in a press release, according to Umair Irfan of Vox. Since then, AstraZeneca has released more complete data showing a slightly lower – but still strong – effectiveness rate of around 76 percent.
Regardless, there was a rise in concern last month after regulators in several European countries cut distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about blood clots. However, the European Union has concluded that the shot is “safe and effective”.
Despite the results of the EU regulator, the AstraZeneca vaccine is not yet approved for use in the United States. As a result, the Biden government announced in March that it would be sending AstraZeneca doses from U.S. stocks to Canada and Mexico, both of which have signed the vaccine.
US mass vaccination efforts are accelerating
Despite setbacks for Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca last month, vaccine news in the US is currently overwhelmingly good. The country has continued to break vaccination records with three coronavirus vaccines approved for emergency use and spread.
White House Covid-19 advisor Andy Slavitt said the US administered more than 4 million vaccines on Saturday, surpassing the country’s weekly average for the first time over 3 million shots a day.
NEW: 4.1 million vaccines were reported today.
From 3.5 million last Saturday.
– Andy Slavitt (@ aslavitt46) April 3, 2021
In addition, more than 100 million people in the US have now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, CNN’s Ryan Struyk tweeted on Friday. According to Struyk, that means 2 in 5 adults in the US have received at least one dose as of Saturday.
There was also positive news about the effectiveness of several Covid-19 vaccines that are already approved for use in the United States.
A new study last week confirmed that the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines offer significant protection against Covid-19 under real-world conditions, even after just one shot.
According to the study, both vaccines were about 80 percent effective after the first doses and 90 percent effective after two doses.
The Wall Street Journal also reported Thursday that the Pfizer vaccine “remains highly effective six months after its second dose, an indication that protection could last longer”.
Despite the good news, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, as a precaution.
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential where we are, and so much reason to hope, but right now I’m scared,” she said last week, warning that US cases of Covid- 19 have started climbing again.
According to coronavirus data from the New York Times, cases in the United States have increased 19 percent in the past two weeks. The rolling seven-day average is almost 65,200 cases per day on Saturday.
“We’re almost there, but not quite there yet,” said Walensky. “And so I’m asking you to hold on to get the vaccine a little longer if you can, so that all of the people we all love will be here when this pandemic ends.”