U.S. Officials Extend Expiration Dates On Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Doses

by Jeremy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Johnson & Johnson said Thursday that U.S. regulators extended the expiration date on millions of doses of its COVID-19 vaccine by an extra six weeks. The company said a Food and Drug Administration review concluded the shots remain safe and effective for up to 4 and a half months.

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The shots have initially been approved for just three months. The announcement comes after state officials warned that many unused doses in storage would expire before the end of the month. The vaccines’ expiration dates are determined based on data the manufacturer submits to regulators proving how long the shots stay at the correct strength. The vaccine was approved for use within about six months. But the FDA has been reviewing those expiration dates as companies have continued to test samples of batches in the months since the shots first rolled out.

The extension will help maintain vaccine supplies even as the rate of new injections continues to slip. The country averaged about 800,000 further injections per day last week. That’s down from a high of nearly 2 million per day two months ago. Government officials have turned to a growing number of incentives to encourage shots ― from paid time off to $1 million lottery prizes.

As vaccinations have slowed, it’s become clear the U.S. is unlikely to meet President Joe Biden’s goal target to have 70% of American adults partially vaccinated by July 4. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 64% of Americans older than 18 have had at least one dose. J&J’s vaccine was highly anticipated because of its one-and-done formulation and easy-to-ship refrigeration requirements. The shot was expected to play a vital role in vaccination campaigns in rural areas and low-income countries with limited health care infrastructure.

But rival drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have already supplied enough doses to meet U.S. demand, with more than 129 million Americans fully vaccinated with the companies’ two-dose shots. By comparison, just 11 million Americans have been vaccinated with the J&J shot. The U.S. is set to announce plans to donate 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses for global use over the next year, on top of 80 million amounts already pledged by the end of the month.

Uptake of J&J’s vaccine in the U.S. has also been hurt by contamination problems at a Baltimore factory that helps manufacture the shots. The facility was shuttered after an FDA inspection uncovered multiple issues in April, and none of the vaccines made there have been distributed.

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