The Biden administration is keen to present its vaccine distribution program to the public, but challenges with the forthcoming Johnson & Johnson vaccine remain, including a slower-than-expected production timeline coupled with little clarity on when and how the shots would be made available.
CNN reported state officials and health providers as saying they were mostly in the dark about how the distribution would work.
Production Snags Hit Rollout Of Biden-era Covid-19 Vaccine
Also, due to a miscommunication over the production, CNN reported, it learned that the launch would be slower than federal health officials initially anticipated.
The administration expected single-digit millions of doses in case of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s authorization for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration.
According to government officials, that number would ramp up to 20 million or 30 million in April, but they were now expecting less than 20 million doses by the time, CNN reported.
This delayed expectations by about a month, and while officials still expected to get 100 million doses by the end of June/beginning of July, it still was still a blow in the final days ahead of its expected approval.
Without directly addressing the slower vaccine rollout, Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that it intended to distribute the vaccine to the US government immediately following the authorization and expected to supply 100 million doses to the US in the first half of 2021. It added it expected to have product available to ship immediately following the authorization.
The FDA had scheduled its independent experts’ meeting for vaccine evaluation and made a recommendation on February 26. It had not been authorized yet.
CNN cited an administration official as saying the White House did not want to get ahead of the FDA’s approval with information on the distribution, but health industry experts were concerned that the slowdown and lack of clarity could lead to confusion, making a quick turnaround in delivery of the shots more difficult.
Dr William Schaffner, infectious diseases and health policy professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told CNN that the doctors and pharmacies ought to be alerted that the vaccine was imminent and expected to arrive.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto Tuesday that the vaccines would be available to the general population, not before late-May or early-June.
Fauci said he was hoping that that would be by the end of April. He added it was predicated on the Johnson product, having considerably more doses than now what was known they would have.
He added that the timeline would probably be prolonged.
According to commentators, the moment was a critical one for President Biden, who stood to score a big win against the pandemic just weeks into his presidency.
They added, the vaccine could prove to be the great Covid-19 hope, as the one-dose shot did not call for the complicated deep-freeze technology that earlier vaccines required. It could also place in the market millions of doses suitable for younger, healthier people.
Many state officials had welcomed the willingness of the administration to engage in an open dialogue during the vaccine-distribution process.
However, they had in a letter to the White House on Monday and asked for better coordination between the federal government and states to prevent confusion and duplicative efforts.
According to one health industry source, that as important as logistics were, there were also questions around another distribution challenge — the vaccine’s efficacy.
Johnson & Johnson’s efficacy was shown to be 66% overall in preventing moderate to severe disease 28 days after vaccination in a global Phase 3 trial, the company claimed.