The White House COVID-19 response team on Tuesday addressed reports that "millions" of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could expire later this month if they go unused.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the U.S. developed a large stockpile of Johnson & Johnson vaccine earlier this year when the use of the drug was briefly paused while officials assessed reports of blood clotting.
The CDC and FDA both said the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risk following an 11-day pause. However, that stoppage has left some states with more supply than demand.
The Wall Street Journal report came a day after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said during a press conference that his state has 200,000 doses of the J&J vaccine that are set to expire on June 23.
“The time to act is now,” DeWine said. “For Ohioans who have been waiting to get their vaccine, I urge you to take action now. There are many opportunities throughout the state to get a vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one of those options. It is safe and effective and only requires one shot. In just two weeks, you could be protected from this virus. Getting vaccinated is the quickest way out of the pandemic and the fastest way for us to return to the lives we remember.”
During a regularly scheduled briefing of the White House COVID-19 response team on Tuesday adviser Andy Slavitt said it was "inevitable" that some doses would go to waste throughout the distribution process.
"It's not realistic to expect that no doses will go to waste," Slavitt said.
He added that the White House chose to prioritize speed in distribution over efficiency in distribution and that the FDA was looking at opportunities for "continued storage."
The U.S. faces the possibility of millions of wasted doses at a time when much of the world is struggling to get its hands on the vaccine. Japan, for instance, has only vaccinated about 7% of its population, according to Bloomberg, even as the country prepares to host the Olympics next month.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration promised to deliver 80 million doses of vaccine to other countries by the end of the month. Of those 80 million doses, about 20 million consists of Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson doses.
Seventy-five percent of that supply will be provided to COVAX, or COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access — a coalition of organizations that aim to deliver “equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.”