WASHINGTON (AP) – Johnson & Johnson said Thursday that U.S. regulators have extended the expiration date for millions of doses of its COVID-19 vaccine by an additional six weeks.
The company said a review by the Food and Drug Administration found the shots would remain safe and effective for up to four and a half months. The recordings were originally only allowed for 3 months.
The announcement comes after state officials warned that many unused cans in the warehouse would expire before the end of the month.
Vaccine expiration dates are determined based on data provided by the manufacturer to regulators to prove how long the vaccines are at the correct strength. The vaccine was approved for use within about six months. But the FDA has reviewed these expiration dates as companies have continued to test samples from batches in the months since the shots were first introduced.
The extension will help maintain vaccine supplies even if the rate of re-injections continues to decline. The country received an average of about 800,000 new injections a day last week. That’s a decrease from a high of nearly 2 million a day two months ago. Government officials have turned to a growing number of incentives to encourage shots – from paid time off to $ 1 million lottery winnings.
As vaccinations have slowed, it has become clear that the US is unlikely to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of partially vaccinating 70% of American adults by July 4th. About 64% of Americans over 18 have received at least one dose for disease control and prevention, according to the centers.
J & J’s vaccine was eagerly awaited due to its unique formulation and easy-to-ship refrigeration requirements. The shot should play a key role in vaccination campaigns in rural areas and low-income countries with limited health infrastructure.
But competing drug makers Pfizer and Moderna have already shipped more than enough doses to meet U.S. demand, with more than 129 million Americans fully vaccinated with the companies’ two-dose shots. By comparison, only 11 million Americans were vaccinated with the J&J shot.
The US will announce plans to donate 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses for worldwide use next year, in addition to the 80 million doses already committed by the end of the month.
The uptake of J & J’s vaccine in the U.S. has also been hampered by contamination problems at a Baltimore factory that helps manufacture the shots. The facility was closed after an FDA inspection in April revealed several problems and none of the vaccines made there were distributed.