J+J Vaccine Faces Problems After Manufacturing Error Caused Contamination of 15 Million Doses
As many as 15 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will not end up in Americans’ arms, after a factory mix up resulted in the another vaccine’s ingredients going into the Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply during manufacturing. The New York Times reports the contamination will result in delays in immediate vaccination shipments across the country.
Vaccine Contamination Happens at Third-Party Factory
The vaccine doses originated from a factory operated by Emergent BioSolutions in Baltimore, Md., which does manufacturing operations for both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Although the company did not note how the vaccine doses were contaminated or what they were contaminated with, an Emergent spokesperson said “human error” was to blame, The New York Times reports. None of the currently available doses are affected by the situation, continuing to make them safe for human consumption.
Emergent’s facility was recruited by the federal government in 2020 to produce enough vaccines from both companies for nationwide distribution, although the AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved for use in the U.S. The accidental conflux of the two vaccines’ ingredients into the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was discovered after a quality control check.
A statement issued by Emergent and reported by The Washington Post said, “There are rigorous quality checks throughout our vaccine manufacturing processes, and through these checks a single batch of drug substance was identified that did not meet specifications and our rigorous quality standards. We isolated this batch and it will be disposed of properly. Importantly, the quality control systems worked as designed to detect and isolate this single batch.”
Johnson & Johnson has vowed to expand staff and oversight at the plant, according to The Washington Post.
The situation creates a major problem for the New Jersey-based health giant, which anticipated shipping up to 24 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine from the Baltimore facility in April, the Times notes. With the backlog, some areas could end up with fewer vaccines than there is demand, resulting in further delays in distributing shots. Moreover, the contamination is a point of corporate embarrassment for both Johnson & Johnson and Emergent, after both lobbied the government for vaccine production contracts.
Johnson & Johnson self-reported the incident to federal officials, with both parties investigating how it happened. Company representatives told The New York Times in a statement that Johnson & Johnson still anticipated shipping most of its projected vaccine doses.
Vaccination Campaign Continues Across the United States
Even though the bad medicine could create a logjam for those seeking the vaccine, increased production by both Pfizer and Moderna are allowing vaccination campaigns to continue across the United States. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, over 99.5 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose. However, only 16.9% of the population is considered fully vaccinated against the novel Coronavirus outbreak.
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