The Food and Drug Administration approved an extension to the expiration date of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine Thursday, the company said in a statement, extending the shelf life by six weeks just before millions of doses could potentially be wasted.
“The decision is based on data from ongoing stability evaluation studies that have shown the vaccine is stable for 4.5 months when refrigerated at temperatures of 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.
The move gives states additional time to figure out how to run out of supplies of the single-dose vaccine, even if local officials have struggled to use up supplies of the shot, which has seen declining demand recently. Since it was approved by the FDA in late February, it’s been an essential resource for reaching more isolated communities and people who prefer to only receive an injection.
But the vaccine suffered a major blow in April when the FDA and CDC recommended discontinuation of use after recipients of the vaccine developed a rare bleeding disorder. State officials said that decision severely cut interest in the vaccine, and about ten million doses shipped to states remain unused, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pace of vaccination has slowed in the past few weeks for all three federally approved vaccinations, and the Biden government has shifted its strategy from using mass vaccination sites to more targeted approaches, some with incentives.
Dr. Marcus Plescia, who represents state health officials as chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said last week that he believes every state is facing impending vaccine expiration dates, prompting local officials to look for ways to to even use their limited supply of it.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Monday pleaded with health care providers in his state to use approximately 200,000 doses of the vaccine that he said he would “out” trial for the shot on the 23rd to ensure that doses are first with an earlier one Expiration dates have been used.
Officials across the south, where vaccination rates have lagged, have also been looking for ways to consume tens of thousands of doses in their possession. In Arkansas, officials hope to use as much as possible in the pop-up clinics over the weekend, including June 15, said Dr. José R. Romero, Arkansas Secretary of Health.
Dr. West Virginia coronavirus tsar Clay Marsh said Thursday that the state has an adequate supply of the three vaccines, giving residents a wide choice from among shots from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. But he said the extension could breathe some life into his state’s efforts to continue reaching vulnerable people: people with disabilities, homebound or homeless, and people with some sort of social instability.
He added that the shot still appealed to people who were skeptical of two doses of a vaccine and that West Virginia wanted to sell Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine at summer markets and festivals and in parks. About 25,000 cans leaked this month, he said.
“The J. & J. vaccine in these situations is very preferable in my opinion,” he said.
Dr. Marsh said he is still wary of overdoses, even with an extended shelf life, and the state is talking to the federal government about how to potentially dispose of them in a timely manner.