Vaccination sites were notified beginning Friday night, that they could resume using the J&J shots, after the CDC’s decision earlier in the day, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
There are 118,765 J&J doses in the state’s possession and further deliveries from the CDC will resume “next week,” according to an April 23 email from a health department spokesperson.
Many of the state’s largest health care systems, and several of the vaccine mega-sites, had used J&J shots.
“The department tonight will notify vaccination Points of Dispensing that we are providing them with updated [Food & Drug Administration] fact sheets for patients and providers and that they may resume administration of the one-dose vaccine,” Persichilli said on April 23.
Those sites were told earlier in the day that they should “be prepared to resume administration of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” Persichilli continued.
J&J vaccines are effective after a single dose and require storage in refrigeration-level temperatures. That’s unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require two doses spaced roughly a month apart, and storage in Arctic-level temperatures.
That made the J&J a more attractive option for delivering shots to hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, elderly, and lower-income, urban residents.
“It is a very particular and potent weapon in the pursuit of equity,” Gov. Phil Murphy said on April 21. “It allows us to get into places that are hard to reach with a one-dose, regular refrigeration vaccine.”
Murphy and President Joe Biden were banking on the J&J vaccine to quicken their goals to inoculate enough people that a large semblance of pre-pandemic life could be attained by the July Fourth weekend.
But the CDC hit the brakes on the J&J product following reports of rare blood clots in several people who took the vaccine. The announcement was the latest in a string of misfortune for the New Brunswick drugmaker, following the spoilage of 15 million doses manufactured at a Baltimore facility.
In New Jersey, J&J accounted for roughly 4% of the shots, and Murphy said he’s still confident that the state can fully vaccinate 4.7 million adults by June 30.
As of April 25, the state has delivered 6.4 million shots into people’s arms, with 3.9 million people getting at least one dose and 2.7 million people being fully vaccinated.
Large-scale COVID-19 vaccinations are widely regarded as a vital step to lifting restrictions on businesses, public gatherings and travel, and returning to pre-pandemic life. State health officials are racing to vaccinate enough people to hold back the rebound of the virus-driven by several contagious mutations.
Recent health data suggests this latest wave of COVID-19 outbreaks and hospitalizations has hit its peak and could start to trend downward over the coming weeks.