By Carl O’Donnell and Jarrett Renshaw
Johnson & Johnson has only a few million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in its inventory even as likely U.S. regulatory authorization is only a few weeks away, White House officials said on Wednesday.
J&J remains committed to providing 100 million doses by June but deliveries are likely to be “back-end loaded” as J&J works with the U.S. government to boost supply, Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a press call.
“Across the last few weeks we’ve learned that there is not a big inventory of Johnson and Johnson. There’s a few million doses that we’ll start with,” Zients said.
J&J said in a statement it intends to immediately begin distributing doses upon U.S. authorization and expects to supply 100 million doses to the United States in the first half of 2021.
The United States has been struggling to hasten its vaccine rollout because of a limited supply of doses. Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc have promised to deliver 200 million doses of their two-dose vaccines by the end of March but so far fewer than 72 million doses have been shipped around the U.S. and around 55 million shots have been given.
The U.S. paid J&J $1 billion in August to help fund the development of its vaccine in exchange for a guarantee of 100 million doses and an option to buy 200 million more. It also provided J&J with $456 million in March.
The Biden administration has promised to explore every option available to aid drugmakers, including J&J, in boosting vaccine production. It said it is deploying wartime powers through the Defense Production Act to help them secure needed supplies.
J&J’s experimental shot involves a single dose and can be stored in refrigerators as opposed to freezers, which could help speed up vaccinations.
Zients said the vaccine could be authorized in a couple of weeks. It is scheduled to be reviewed on Feb. 26 by a panel of outside advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. J&J requested FDA authorization earlier this month.