Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Deliveries to Drop in U.S.

The slowdown, coming after millions of doses were ruined in a factory mix-up, is a setback for U.S. vaccination efforts. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.,

LiveUpdated April 9, 2021, 6:49 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 6:49 a.m. ET

The slowdown, coming after millions of doses were ruined in a factory mix-up, is a setback for the fast-moving U.S. vaccination program.

Lining up for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a college in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Lining up for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a college in Los Angeles on Wednesday.Credit…Richard Vogel/Associated Press

Johnson & Johnson will allocate 86 percent fewer doses across the United States next week than are currently being allocated, according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dealing a setback to a national vaccination campaign that has just found its footing.

The distribution of the drug, a single-shot vaccine, has been inconsistent since Johnson & Johnson delivered its first batch at the beginning of March, sending 2.8 million doses across the country before dipping below 400,000 in the following weeks.

Last week about 1.9 million doses were sent across the country, and this week 4.9 million shots went out. Next week that number will drop to 700,000.

Federal administrators divide vaccine doses nationwide based on each state’s adult population. That means that California will bear the brunt of the reduction: After receiving 572,700 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, it will get only 67,600 next week.

In Texas, the allocation will drop to 46,300 from 392,100. Florida, which received 313,200 shots this week, will get 37,000 next week. Guam, which received 16,900 doses this week, will receive none next week.

The slowdown comes days after federal officials learned that Emergent BioSolutions, a contract manufacturer that has been making both the Johnson & Johnson and the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines, had mixed up ingredients from the two. That mistake ruined up to 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The mix-up also led regulators to delay authorization of the plant’s production lines and the Biden administration to put Johnson & Johnson in charge of the troubled Baltimore plant.

How big a role the problems at the Baltimore factory are playing in the fluctuations in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution is difficult to determine.

Conservative about how many doses it would initially produce, Johnson & Johnson still fell behind this winter on its production goals in the U.S., delivering less than it had promised in February and March.

The initial Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply in the United States came from a Dutch plant and was delivered on an uneven schedule. That led the Biden administration to warn state health officials that the supply of the vaccine would be variable.

But federal officials expected that with the help of the Emergent factory in Baltimore, there would be a steady stream of doses from the company in April. Now, with that plant still lacking authorization, the anticipated delivery schedule is up in the air.

In Maryland, the state health secretary, Dennis R. Schrader, told vaccine providers that the “significant decrease with no advance notice is a surprise and a disappointment, and we share your frustration.” The state will receive 78,300 less shots next week compared with this week.

In Ohio, at his weekly news conference, Gov. Mike DeWine said he had been told that the reduction in doses was not a result of “what happened in the factory.” Ohio is to receive 151,600 fewer shots next week.

The C.D.C. said on Thursday that about 112 million people in the United States had received at least one dose of a vaccine, including about 66.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated by Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine or the two-dose series made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Administering the AstraZeneca vaccine in Paris.
Administering the AstraZeneca vaccine in Paris.Credit…Christophe Archambault/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Recipients of a first dose of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine who are under 55 should get a second shot with other vaccines, France’s top health regulator said on Friday.

Several European countries briefly suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine last month because of the risk of rare blood clots. France resumed administering shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine after European health regulators vouched for it, though only to people 55 and older. That left over 500,000 younger people who had received a first dose wondering how they would get their second.

(In Britain, the authorities recommended the opposite strategy on Thursday: Health Minister Matt Hancock said that the 1.5 million people age 18 to 29 who had received one AstraZeneca dose should get a second injection of the same vaccine. Others, he said, would be offered an alternative.)

France’s top health agency said on Friday that a single shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine was “insufficient” for lasting and efficient protection from the virus. It recommended administering a shot of vaccines like those produced by Pfizer or Moderna 12 weeks after the initial AstraZeneca jab.

Dominique Le Guludec, who heads the agency, said at a news conference that the immune reaction to a second dose was sometimes stronger than the first, which could expose younger people to heightened risks of rare blood clotting if they got a second AstraZeneca shot.

Prof. Elisabeth Bouvet, who leads the health authority’s vaccine committee, said at the news conference that clinical data on mixing and matching vaccines was still sparse. But she stressed that available data indicated that the strategy was safe.

“There is no reason to fear any particular side effects,” Professor Bouvet said.

The health authority said that the mixing of Covid-19 vaccines would be closely monitored to assess people’s immune response and to ensure adequate protection from the virus.

The twists and turns over use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe have put a dent in people’s trust in the vaccine over the past months, but Ms. Le Guludec emphasized that it was still efficient and broadly safe to use.

“Those older than 55 represent over 95 percent of the 98,000 people who have died of the coronavirus in France,” she said. “This vaccine will therefore save lives, and if we want to win the battle against the virus, we must use all the weapons at our disposal.”

The coronavirus variant first detected in Britain is now spreading in at least 114 countries, and nowhere are its devastating effects as visible as in Europe, where thousands are dying each day and already-battered economies are being hit by new restrictions on daily life.

The variant, known as B.1.1.7, is not only more contagious than the virus’s initial form, but is also deadlier.

With the mutation now propelling a surge in cases in Europe — the epicenter of the pandemic last spring — an interactive article by The New York Times’s graphics team outlines the toll that the B.1.1.7 variant is taking on the continent, and lessons that it might offer the world.

Having surged in Britain starting in December, the variant also seeded outbreaks across the continent, but many went unnoticed behind an overall drop in cases. Those outbreaks have since ballooned, and B.1.1.7 has crowded out other versions of the virus, becoming dominant in more than a dozen European countries.

Despite watching the B.1.1.7 variant wallop Britain, lawmakers in continental Europe were slow to react. In late January, President Emmanuel Macron of France defied calls from his scientific advisers for new restrictions. Now, daily cases have doubled, hospitals are swelling with patients and Mr. Macron has imposed a third national lockdown.

“What’s surprising to me is how many countries didn’t anticipate what B.1.1.7 would bring,” said Devi Sridhar, a professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “People underestimated it, instead of saying we should learn from what’s happening in the U.K.”

A man waiting for the results of a mandatory Covid-19 test given to all new arrivals at Hong Kong International Airport in October.
A man waiting for the results of a mandatory Covid-19 test given to all new arrivals at Hong Kong International Airport in October.Credit…Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Hong Kong government said last month that it would allow hundreds of residents who have been stranded in Britain by virus-related travel restrictions to return on two special flights.

But when those residents went to book seats on flights, the website for Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flag carrier, crashed. The snafu on Thursday was the latest chapter in a bureaucratic saga that has left them feeling angry, confused and exasperated.

The Hong Kong government suspended flights from Britain in December as a coronavirus variant spread through that country. It also barred anyone who had spent more than two hours there or in other “extremely high-risk” places in the previous 21 days from boarding a direct flight to the Chinese territory.

Those measures, which remain in effect, also apply to inbound travelers who have recently been to Brazil, Ireland or South Africa. But last week Hong Kong said that it would arrange two special return flights from London on Cathay Pacific in late April. It cited Britain’s declining caseload and “satisfactory vaccination progress” as reasons for the policy shift.

When the airline’s website crashed on Thursday, said Anthony Sheik Bux, a district councilor in Hong Kong who has been helping the stranded travelers, “people panicked” and started contacting him.

In a statement on Friday, Cathay Pacific apologized for the glitch and said that roughly 600 seats on the two flights — scheduled for April 21 and April 28 — had sold out after the website problem was resolved.

The South China Morning Post newspaper reported last week that the travel ban had stranded more than 600 Hong Kong residents in Britain. Mr. Bux said on Friday that some of them had been unable to book seats on the special flights.

It was unclear whether additional flights would be offered, or why officials in Hong Kong, where the borders have been closed to nonresidents for more than a year, waited more than three months to schedule the two flights. A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department referred questions on Friday to the Food and Health Bureau, which declined to comment.

Mr. Bux said he could sympathize with the stranded travelers because he, too, had been stranded by the December ban while visiting family in Liverpool. He said he was among the 200 to 300 Hong Kong residents who had managed to make it home from Britain after spending a 21-day “wash out” period in a third country like Thailand, Egypt or the United Arab Emirates.

In Mr. Bux’s case, he flew to Bangkok on Feb. 7 and arrived home more than three weeks later — only to begin a mandatory three-week hotel quarantine, one of the world’s longest. Some scientists have questioned whether that policy is too strict because the coronavirus is widely considered to have a 14-day incubation period.

“After my departure from the U.K., I needed 42 days to resume my normal life in Hong Kong,” he said. “It’s a really long period.”

Volunteers assisting people who received the Moderna vaccine at a drive-through site on the campus of Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., in March.
Volunteers assisting people who received the Moderna vaccine at a drive-through site on the campus of Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., in March.Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

When it comes to getting a coronavirus vaccine, Mississippi residents have an abundance of options. On Thursday, there were more than 73,000 slots to be had on the state’s scheduling website, up from 68,000 on Tuesday.

In some ways, that growing availability of appointments is something to celebrate: It reflects the mounting supplies that have prompted states across the country to open up eligibility to anyone over 16. But public health experts say it also exposes something more worrisome: the large number of people who are reluctant to be inoculated.

“It’s time to do the heavy lifting needed to overcome the hesitancy we’re encountering,” said Dr. Obie McNair, an internal medicine practitioner in Jackson, the state capital.

Although access remains a problem in rural Mississippi, experts say that the state — which three weeks ago became one of the first to open eligibility to all adults — may be a harbinger of what much of the country will confront in the coming weeks as increasing supplies enable most Americans who want the vaccine to easily make appointments.

Demographics help explain Mississippi’s challenge. The state reliably votes Republican, a group that remains highly skeptical of coronavirus vaccines. And its population is 38 percent Black, a group that in one recent survey indicated a lower willingness to be vaccinated than Hispanic or white people.

The hesitancy has national implications. Experts say that 70 to 90 percent of people in the United States must be vaccinated for the country to reach herd immunity, the point at which the virus can no longer spread through the population.

In Mississippi, a quarter of all residents have received at least one vaccine dose, compared with the nationwide average of 33 percent, according to state data. Other Southern states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee, have similarly low rates of vaccination.

Some other heavily Republican states are also finding themselves with surfeits of doses. Officials in Oklahoma, which has delivered at least one dose to 34 percent of its residents, said on Thursday that they would open up eligibility to out-of-state residents. In recent weeks, Republican governors in Ohio and Georgia voiced concern about lackluster vaccine demand among their residents.

Tim Callaghan, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health and an expert on vaccine skepticism, said that more research was needed to determine the reasons behind Mississippi’s slackening vaccine demand, but that states with large rural populations, Republican voters and African-Americans were likely to be the first to confront the problem.

“If you’re looking to see vaccine hesitancy to emerge,” he said, “it’s going to be in red states like Mississippi.”

Visiting Yosemite Valley National Park in California in November.
Visiting Yosemite Valley National Park in California in November.Credit…Peter Dasilva/EPA, via Shutterstock

Reservations will be required for day visitors to Yosemite National Park beginning next month, the park said on Thursday, a system that officials hope will reduce the risk of Covid-19 exposure as the demand for domestic travel increases around the United States.

Yosemite, in central California, has seen more than four million annual visitors in recent years, with people drawn to its giant sequoia groves, wilderness and waterfalls. Last year, that number was cut nearly in half, according to the National Park Service.

Day-use reservations will be required for all visitors this year, including annual and lifetime pass holders, the park said in a news release. Reservations will be valid for three days and will be required from May 21 through Sept. 30, or until local public health conditions improve.

“The health and safety of park visitors, employees and partners continues to be our number one priority,” the park said. It added that it would continue to work with local public health officials to ensure that visitation would not overwhelm the region’s “limited rural health care system.”

Yosemite National Park also instituted a reservation system last summer, and this summer similar programs have been announced by Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Glacier National Park in Montana.

Travel across the United States has been on the rise in recent weeks, and travel experts expect domestic travel this summer to grow to within 5 percent of prepandemic levels.

On March 12, more than 1.3 million people passed through U.S. airports, the highest number on any day since March 2020. Airlines have also added new flight routes and revived old ones, another sign that demand is picking up as national vaccination rates rise.

Global Roundup

Passengers at Heathrow Airport in London this year. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is expected to announce new travel recommendations on May 17.
Passengers at Heathrow Airport in London this year. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is expected to announce new travel recommendations on May 17.Credit…Matthew Childs/Reuters

England’s residents will probably be allowed to travel abroad this summer, a government official said on Friday, as the authorities plan to announce new travel guidelines next month.

“For the first time, people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad, or perhaps a summer holiday, but we’re doing it very, very cautiously,” said Grant Shapps, the transportation minister.

For months, the authorities in the country have asked residents not to book summer vacations abroad, and the cautious recommendation on Friday was the first official indication that travel could soon be allowed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is expected to announce new travel recommendations on May 17 based on a tiered system that would outline whether travelers returning to England from various countries must isolate, and where.

On Monday, England is scheduled to reopen outdoor spaces in pubs and restaurants, as well as nonessential shops, gyms and hair salons.

In other news from other the world:

  • Hong Kong‘s health secretary, Sophia Chan, said on Friday that the Chinese territory would delay a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines that had been scheduled to arrive in the second half of this year. She said the government had sufficient supplies of the Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and did not want to waste any doses.

  • Germany recorded its highest number of Covid-19 vaccinations on Thursday, with nearly 720,000 people receiving either a first or second dose. The authorities attributed the sharp rise to increased supplies and the addition of family doctors to the vaccine drive. People who are fully vaccinated will not have to present proof of a negative Covid test to travel or to enter shops, as is now the case in some regions, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday. He said at a news conference, however, that Germany could soon require a new nationwide lockdown and a nighttime curfew as the country’s intensive-care units risk being overwhelmed.

  • In Japan, the authorities issued stricter measures in Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa set to begin on Monday. Restaurants and bars will have to close by 8 p.m., and large events will be capped at 5,000 people. The measures are expected to be in place until May 11 in Tokyo and May 5 in Kyoto and Okinawa.

  • In Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg was fined for organizing a party that violated social distancing rules. She celebrated her 60th birthday with 13 guests at a mountain resort in late February, even though her government had limited such gatherings to 10 people. Ms. Solberg, who has been leading Norway since 2013, was fined about $2,350.

Christopher F. Schuetze, Mike Ives, Makiko Inoue and Thomas Erdbrink contributed reporting.

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