As demand for COVID-19 vaccines declines across the country, unused Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses are piling up across the United States, including in Connecticut.
Officials from the Connecticut Department of Public Health said Wednesday that the state has roughly 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on hand and around 95 percent were set to expire between now and June 24.
Hours later, Johnson & Johnson released a statement, saying the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has authorized an extension of the shelf life for the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from three months to four and a half months.
“Unfortunately, the reality is that we are only using roughly 3,000 doses of J&J a week, so the majority of our doses will not be used before their current expiration date,” a statement from the state Department of Public Health said in a statement Wednesday night, before the J&J statement about the extension.
The buildup of doses across the country is largely a result of the Food and Drug Administration's order in early April, pausing the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of safety concerns. The pause was lifted at the end of April.
Connecticut has not ordered a new allotment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine since that pause, according to the Department of Public Health.
“We have not ordered new J&J through our state allocation since the J&J pause in early April, which has allowed us to gradually and responsibly work through our inventory as best as we can,” a statement from the Department of Health says.
The department said it is using a “first-in, first-out strategy” and filling all J&J orders through transfers from other state providers to avoid wastage.
State officials said the Connecticut Department of Health reached out to federal authorities several weeks ago about the potential for unused doses in Connecticut to expire.
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This comes as officials from several states across the country have expressed concerned that the lack of a coordinated federal plan to redistribute them means hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of doses will go to waste.
“We have advocated, and continue to advocate, that these doses be re-deployed elsewhere, either in the US or abroad, where they could be put to use. Many states however are in a similar situation, and there does not appear to be any domestic demand for these doses,” a statement from the state Department of Health says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine data tracker indicates that 21.4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been distributed and that a little more than half have been administered, or nearly 11.3 million.
Connecticut had been advised to hold onto expiring doses instead of throwing them out while studies are done.
“Just this morning, we received guidance from the White House that providers should quarantine their expiring doses, rather than throwing them out, as studies are conducted to determine if the expiration dates can be safely extended,” the state Department of Health said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
In the meantime, the state is working to use as many doses as possible before they do expire, according to the state Department of Health.