HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Supply is up, but demand is down when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. It used to be difficult to find vaccines and people spent hours on their computer looking for an appointment. Fast forward a few months and the focus is now on using vaccines before they go to waste.
According to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, more than 800,000 Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware could go to waste this summer.
Just last week, the Food and Drug Administration extended the shelf life for the single-dose vaccine, pushing back the expiration date by six weeks. The Pennsylvania Department of Health says it had over 6,700 doses of Johnson & Johnson that were set to expire by the end of June, but due to the extension, those doses can be used through August 7.
Delaware’s Department of Health says it has more than 6,700 Johnson & Johnson doses that will now expire by August 4.
“When it comes to the stability of vaccines and drug products, ultimately it’s an evolving process of determining that stability that does take time,” said Erik Heft, Executive Director of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Harrisburg University.
The extension buys some time to use up the vaccines, but sharing unused doses isn’t an option.
“Once these vaccines go to the states, they really can’t be exported internationally and there are a few reasons for that,” said Hefti. “Logistically, it’s a challenge but there’s also a concern about contamination, was that cold chain preserved, will it be preserved, it’s not as easy as sticking a stamp on it and mailing it.”
Acting Pennsylvania Health Secretary, Alison Beam, says there was a definite slowing of uptake on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the nationwide pause that followed reports of blood clots.
Sadler Health Center in Carlisle has been working to overcome the hesitancy around the vaccine. The single-dose is what attacts patients.
“It’s a one and done vaccine and hence, most of our patients have requested the vaccine,” said Dr. Lakshmi Polavarapu, Family Medicine Physician at Sadler Health Center.
It’s not clear how many unused doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine New Jersey had. Between Delaware and Pennsylvania, 13,500 doses could have gone to waste.