WASHINGTON — Health care providers will begin receiving the first 3.9 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s newly authorized Covid-19 vaccine as early as Tuesday morning, though supply will be uneven in the coming weeks, senior Biden administration officials said.
The first shipments account for the entirety of J&J’s current inventory. Officials expect another 16 million doses to be available by the end of March, though J&J told the federal government that the doses will be delivered mostly toward the second half of the month.
“We do not expect any additional deliveries next week and we expect deliveries to be uneven during the weeks of March. We’re getting doses out the door as soon as they’re available to ensure vaccines get into the arms as quickly as possible,” one senior administration official said.
The federal government has purchased 100 million doses of the J&J vaccine, which requires only a single shot, but supplies are expected to be scarce until at least April. The vaccine will be sent beginning Sunday night, one day after its emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
On Sunday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — an expert panel that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccination policy — urged the CDC to recommend use of the vaccine. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky signed off on that recommendation, paving the way for the vaccine to be deployed.
The Biden administration has decided to distribute the J&J vaccine proportional to states’ populations — the same formula used to send the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, even though the J&J vaccine is authorized for one dose instead of two, and carries less stringent refrigeration requirements.
Though each vaccination site may not have all three vaccines available, officials intend for all three vaccines to be available in all communities.
“All three authorized vaccines will be available in the suburbs, all three available in the cities, and all three available on the coast, and in the heartland,” another official said.
Officials said that individuals should know what vaccine they are signing up for ahead of time, but have also stressed that individuals are unlikely to have a choice in which vaccine they receive at this stage of the rollout. They encouraged people not to slow down the pace of immunizations by waiting for a particular vaccine.