Health Care

White House: ‘Small fraction’ of COVID-19 vaccine doses will be unused

White House officials on Tuesday said they were not concerned about the potential for states to have unused Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses go to waste, adding that the federal government is working on strategies to extend the vaccine’s shelf life.

“Our first goal and our first opportunity is that every dose that’s been ordered by a governor in a state gets used,” White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters. 

“There is a very very small fraction of doses that have been sent out to states that will ultimately not be used. These will be fractional amounts. And really, will not have any significant bearing on our ability to commit to distribute vaccines globally,” Slavitt said.

Slavitt was responding to a question about Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), who issued an urgent plea Monday evening for vaccine providers to distribute as many doses as possible as quickly as possible. 

DeWine said the state has 200,000 doses that will expire by June 23, and he does not have legal options for sending the vaccine elsewhere, either to other states or other countries.

“Look, it’s not realistic to expect that not a single dose will go to waste,” Slavitt said. “I will tell you that a very very small fraction of the doses that have been sent to states, that are in the hundreds of millions, will end up not being used. Remember those doses were ordered by states, delivered by states and should end up in people’s arms.”

Slavitt said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking at ways to extend the storage life of the vaccines, and encouraged states to contact the agency.

“We would encourage every governor, who has doses that they worry may be expiring, to work with the FDA directly on the proper storage procedures, as we continue to examine … processes that will allow the doses to potentially last longer,” Slavitt said.

The Biden administration is using June as a “month of action” to encourage as many people to get vaccinated as possible. But Slavitt indicated that at the end of the day, the state ordered the doses it expected to use. 

About 171 million Americans have been at least partially vaccinated, but less than 10 percent of them — only about 11 million people — have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

A total of about 21.4 million Johnson & Johnson doses have been delivered to states and other jurisdictions. However, they have not received any new doses from the federal government since May 10. The stockpiles are in part a result of the U.S. decision to temporarily pause the use of the vaccine in April.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 COVID-19 vaccines Mike DeWine

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