USA —The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an order instructing healthcare providers in the United States to dispose of any remaining doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine.
The decision was made due to the expiration of the vaccine doses last week.
According to CDC data, an estimated 19 million people in the US have received the J&J vaccine since its release, while a total of 31.5 million doses were distributed to states and other jurisdictions.
This leaves approximately 12.5 million unused doses that must now be discarded.
While 7% of vaccinated individuals in the US received the J&J vaccine as their initial shot, the CDC stated that the J&J vaccines were associated with 60 confirmed cases of thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), including nine deaths.
It is important to note that although the J&J vaccine is no longer available, the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech are still accessible to the public. These vaccines remain free as long as federal supplies are in stock.
Last year, Johnson & Johnson temporarily halted production of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine at its Leiden plant in the Netherlands.
However, the company assured the fulfillment of contractual obligations related to the Covax facility and the African Union.
Instead, the company shifted its focus to developing an experimental vaccine for an unrelated virus, which holds potential for higher profitability.
The CDC’s decision comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized a decrease in COVID-19 deaths, a decline in hospitalizations and intensive care admissions, and a significant level of population immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
As a result, the WHO’s emergency committee concluded that COVID-19 is no longer considered a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), but rather an ongoing health issue requiring long-term management.
Although the pandemic’s impact has lessened, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized the need for reflection and cautioned against complacency.
While acknowledging the progress made in combating the virus, Ghebreyesus highlighted the persisting political divisions, weakened trust between people and governments, and deep-rooted inequalities exposed by the pandemic.
He urged countries to remain vigilant, uphold established systems, and refrain from conveying the message that COVID-19 is a trivial matter.
As of May 10, 2023, the global cumulative COVID-19 cases have neared 766 million, with nearly 7 million reported deaths, according to the WHO’s Coronavirus Dashboard.
The WHO will continue to recommend vaccination, especially for high-priority routine health services, while providing services focused on preventing and treating COVID-19, including vaccination programs.
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