An FDA spokeswoman Tuesday referred questions about the vaccine’s shelf life to Johnson & Johnson.
“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,” the company said in a statement. “We also continue to conduct stability testing with the goal of extending the amount of time our COVID-19 vaccine can be stored before expiry."
The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures for three months, conditions that have allowed states to reach more isolated communities that may find it more difficult to manage the two-dose vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which have stricter storage requirements. Pfizer’s vaccine expires six months from its manufacture date.
Concerns among state health officials about the Johnson & Johnson doses have dovetailed with a significant drop in vaccination rates across the nation. As of Monday, providers were administering about 1.13 million doses per day on average, around a 67% decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported April 13. About 64% of U.S. adults have received at least one shot, according to federal data.
“There is a very, very small fraction of doses that have been sent out to states that will ultimately not be used. These will be fractional amounts and really will not have any significant bearing on our ability to commit to distribute vaccines globally."
- Andy Slavitt, a White House pandemic adviser
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, bemoaned at a news conference Monday what he called a “two-track pandemic,” with wealthy countries using much of the world’s vaccine supply.
“The inequitable distribution of vaccines has allowed the virus to continue spreading, increasing the chances of a variant emerging that renders vaccines less effective,” Tedros said, adding “the biggest barrier to ending the pandemic remains sharing: of doses, of resources, of technology.”
At the White House news conference, Slavitt said it was unrealistic to expect that the United States could avoid wasting some vaccine doses, adding that any expired Johnson & Johnson doses would not significantly affect the administration’s efforts to help vaccinate other countries.
“There is a very, very small fraction of doses that have been sent out to states that will ultimately not be used,” he said. “These will be fractional amounts and really will not have any significant bearing on our ability to commit to distribute vaccines globally.”