Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine is expected to be delivered to vaccination sites as early as Tuesday, the Biden administration told CNN.
The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the vaccine on Saturday and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the vaccine on Sunday.
"Starting tonight, 3.9 million doses of J&J will be distributed across all channels, states, tribes, territories and pharmacies and community health centers," a Biden administration official told reporters. "Those J&J doses will be delivered as early as this Tuesday morning."
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one dose and does not need special refrigeration.
"As a one-dose vaccine, people do not have to return for a second dose to be protected," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. "In addition, this vaccine does not need to be kept in a freezer and can be stored at refrigerated temperatures -- so it is easy to transport and store and allows for expanded availability in most community settings and mobile sites, as supply scales up."
Vaccine supply to expand:
The company has told the Biden administration that the weekly supply will be limited over several weeks at first but could deliver up to 20 million doses by the end of March.
"There's a kind of new urgency to it," Dr. Eric Rubin, a member of the FDA vaccine advisory committee, told CNN. "Because there are new viral variants coming out right now, with some chance that some of them could eventually become somewhat resistant to the protection provided by vaccines, it's really important to get it out there fast."
Walensky said the vaccine comes "at a potentially pivotal time."
"CDC's latest data suggest that recent declines in COVID-19 cases may be stalling and potentially leveling off at still very high numbers," she said. "That is why it is so critical that we remain vigilant and consistently take all of the mitigation steps we know work to stop the spread of COVID-19 while we work our way toward mass vaccination."
Vaccine outlook improving:
About 50 million Americans have already received their first dose of the two available vaccines, according to the CDC, and nearly 25 million have received both doses.
Pfizer and Moderna have vowed to deliver 220 million combined doses by the end of the month. Johnson & Johnson’s 20 million would mean that there is enough vaccine to fully immunize another 130 million Americans, though officials say the government needs to invest more in distribution to ensure those shots get into arms quickly.