New Jersey is seeing a nearly 90% drop in the number of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses available in the coming weeks, following a mix-up at a Baltimore plant that led to the spoilage of roughly 15 million doses.
Gov. Phil Murphy said that while most of the dose supply comes from J&J’s Netherlands plant, the Baltimore plant mishap has “got to be somewhat related” to the drop in supply.
That drops to 466,000 doses next week, with the state getting an estimated 131,000 doses this week and then 15,600 the one following. The week after that, the expected J&J dosage supply drops to just 5,200 viles.
“The J&J numbers are going down dramatically from this week to the next,” Murphy said.
But, he assured “this is a short-term issue” and not a “permanent, long-term” problem, the governor said.
“At least, we’re not getting any indicating that it is,” he said.
While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require storage in Arctic-level temperatures, J&J is shelf-stable at refrigeration temperatures, making its transportation and handling far easier.
“I don’t want to pin it all on J&J, but the J&J supply is the big game-changer that allows us the flexibility,” like in lower-income communities, home-bound residents and other hard-to-reach segments of the population, Murphy said in late March.
The governor assured that he still expects 1 million J&J doses to make it into the state over the next two months.
Full eligibility is opening up on April 19 for anyone over the age of 16, which Murphy said is part of a race against the spread of a new wave of cases fueled by the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant.
“This is why we are continuing to enforce our statewide mask mandate, especially for indoor activities where we know transmission is more likely and also in the face of the more-transmissible variants we know are among us,” Murphy said.
“It is also a reason why we moved up our vaccine eligibility time-frame aggressively, so we can have more people into the ranks of the fully vaccinated in a shorter amount of time.”
The best and moderate-case scenarios call for hospitalizations and daily cases to peak on April 19 and then coast down over the summer. A worst-case scenario calls for a peak dragging on from May to June, in what Murphy described as a “long hot summer.”