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Vaccine mystery: Why J&J's shots aren't reaching more arms

   March 22, 2021 8:45 AM
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Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine Vaccine causing confusion and finger-pointing
Johnson & Johnson's single-shot Covid vaccine was supposed to be the catalyst for the country's return to normal. Instead, it's sparking confusion and finger-pointing between the states and the Biden administration over why millions of doses are sitting unused.

Almost three weeks after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the shots, no one appears to be able to explain why immunizations are lagging. Some states are thought to be intentionally holding back shots, while others say it takes time to inoculate populations like the homebound.

Over the course of the last two weeks, senior Biden administration officials have met privately to try and determine what happened. Two senior administration officials believe states are conserving their J&J supplies until there's enough to reach underserved communities and specific groups, like teachers or the disabled. But multiple state officials say they're using whatever they get as soon as they get it.

What is clear is that around 2.3 million of the 4.3 million doses of the vaccine delivered have actually been administered. Between 140,000 and 200,000 doses have made it into people's arms in recent days, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The bumpy J&J rollout highlights the challenges the White House still faces ensuring a timely and steady administration of Covid-19 vaccines with President Joe Biden eyeing July 4 as "Independence Day" from the virus. Because it takes just two weeks to achieve immunity with the J&J shot — compared to five or six weeks for two-dose shots from Pfizer and Moderna, respectively — the absence of enough "one and done" vaccinations has a ripple effect, slowing the overall pace of the rollout.

Biden administration officials had repeatedly warned the initial J&J deployment would be rocky, since there was only a limited supply of shots available in the opening weeks. Problems could also be compounded by reporting lags. But they expect the distribution to smooth out when more vaccine becomes available at the end of this month.

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