The new, single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is set to boost vaccination efforts in Maryland and Virginia, but the first allocation will be the only shipment the states will receive for a few weeks.
Maryland received an initial shipment of 49,600 doses, and officials plan to distribute 100% of that allocation to health care providers this week. However, officials aren’t expecting another shipment until March 18.
“I can assure you that whatever supply we are able to receive, we are ready to immediately deploy and get into the arms of Marylanders,” Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday during a press conference.
“It takes a while to ramp up production,” the Republican governor added. “They’ve been manufacturing these for many months, waiting for the approval. And then they just shipped out every single one they had in the one week, and now they have to catch back up again.”
Officials said the company had production issues and made only 3.9 million doses before getting emergency use approval on Saturday. The company expects to produce 100 million doses by the end of June.
Virginia is set to receive 69,000 doses this week, and an additional allocation will be directed to its federal pharmacy partnership program. Officials there expect a dip in that allocation as the company increases production, but they plan to see an increase in a few weeks.
Federal officials informed the states that future allocations of the J&J vaccine could be uneven and potentially smaller than the first shipment.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the third to receive emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which were approved in December, the J&J version is a single dose that does not require special freezer storage.
The Pfizer and Moderna options have a 95% efficacy rate after both shots, and the J&J vaccine has a 72% rate.
Federal officials advised the states that “persons may receive any recommended COVID-19 vaccine and are encouraged to receive the earliest available” version, according to the Maryland state government website.
Meanwhile, Virginia Department of Health spokeswoman Dena Potter told The Washington Times: “No decisions on vaccine allotment are made based on demographics. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be used in larger vaccine clinics around the state. Many of the decisions made in regard to where each was sent had to do with the logistics of receiving and storing the vaccine.”
As of Tuesday, Virginia has administered more than 2 million total vaccine doses, with more than 1.3 million people receiving at least their first dose and 697,879 people fully vaccinated.
Eligible residents can pre-register online at vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).
In Maryland, more than 1.3 million doses have been administered — of which 898,235 were first doses and 678,195 were second doses.
Mr. Hogan said he understands the frustrations Marylanders have with the speed of the vaccination process, noting that 40% of residents have received doses.
“I know how frustrating this is for the many other people who are eligible,” he said. “There are about a million people who are currently eligible for the vaccine who we cannot schedule for a vaccine. It’s not about a website and a process. There are not enough vaccines. We’ve got as good or better a process as anyone in the country.”
Mr. Hogan said three more mass vaccination sites will open in Maryland this month — Hagerstown Premium Outlets in Hagerstown, Wicomico Youth and Civic Center on the Eastern Shore and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs’ Regency Furniture Stadium in Charles County.
Meanwhile, the Six Flags America site in Prince George’s County is set to double capacity and offer more than 4,000 doses a day. The M&T Bank Stadium site in Baltimore is expected to administer up to 2,000 vaccines daily. The Baltimore Convention Center site will prioritize underserved populations.