According to the CDC, shipments of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are set to fall sharply in a few days, from 5 million to 785,000 — a drop of 85 percent. The shortfall comes on the heels of news that the company had to throw out 15 million doses of its vaccine, after workers at a pharmaceutical manufacturing company it partnered with mixed up components for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson doses produced at the same factory.
As the Guardian points out, the sudden drop in supply is not unprecedented: The availability of J&J doses has fluctuated in recent weeks. But given the company’s dependence on the Baltimore plant where the mix-up occurred to deliver new doses of the vaccine — previous doses had come from a different plant in the Netherlands — its supply chain in the U.S. could be badly dented for some time to come.
It is unclear whether the J&J shortfall could mean that vaccine demand will outstrip supply in the United States again, as it did in the first weeks of the vaccination effort. USA Today reports that 4.7 million first doses of Pfizer and 3.5 million first doses of Moderna will be given to states next week, and some states have not used all the vaccines they currently have on hand. Hurdles to access, along with vaccine hesitancy, have been bigger problems than overall supply as of late.
Even if that’s not the case , the Johnson & Johnson shot has crucial advantages over its competitors. The one-shot factor and easier storage requirements of the vaccine make it ideal to administer to homebound seniors, out-of-the-way populations, and needlephobes — as well as people who simply want the convenience of being done after a single appointment. At least for now, Pfizer and Moderna will have to pick up the slack.