USA –According to an exclusive report from the New York Times, Johnson & Johnson has halted COVID-19 vaccine production at a Dutch facility in the city of Leiden, instead opting to manufacture an R.S.V (Respiratory syncytial virus) vaccine.

The Dutch facility was the only one producing usable batches of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine at the time of the halt.

The J&J vaccine has been extremely popular in developing countries because, unlike Pfizer’s Comirnaty and Moderna’s Spikevax, it does not require ultra-cold refrigeration, making it the most accessible option.

The single-shot regimen is also less expensive and easier to administer to hard-to-reach populations.

Although J&J claims that its vaccine stockpiles will see the company through the pause, sources familiar with the situation tell the New York Times that delays could reduce supplies by a few hundred million doses.

Even after the Leiden factory reopens, new doses are unlikely to be shipped until May or June.

J&J has a network of contracted factories that can produce the vaccine, but supply chain issues have made deliveries difficult.

The Bayview facility had to shut down after the FDA said it did not meet federal manufacturing standards, and the other plants — in North Carolina and India — are not expected to produce usable vaccine substances until late spring, according to the New York Times.

J&J was already falling behind in vaccine delivery prior to the pause. According to a source close to the situation, the company promised to deliver one billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 but only delivered 400 million doses.

To complicate matters further, two of the company’s largest customers, the African Union and Covax, the clearinghouse in charge of getting vaccines to developing countries, learned about the pause from a New York Times report.

According to the New York Times, the African Union ordered 220 million doses and has received them on time or ahead of schedule.

Covax, on the other hand, anticipated receiving up to 200 million doses of the J&J vaccine in 2021 but only received four million. According to the nonprofit, 151,000 doses arrived in January.

Safety concerns

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine, which was initially marketed as a single shot, fell out of favor in the United States and other wealthy countries, in part due to its association with a rare but dangerous blood-clotting disorder.

Poorer countries, on the other hand, continue to rely on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which does not require ultracold refrigeration.

When administered as a two-shot regimen, it has been shown to provide strong and long-lasting protection against severe disease across variants, including Omicron.

The vaccine is less expensive and easier to administer to hard-to-reach populations as a single shot.

J&J, unlike Pfizer and Moderna, has not made a fortune from its COVID-19 vaccine. Last year, it made about US$2.4 billion in sales, compared to Pfizer’s US$36 billion.

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