The company that manufactures the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine will be undergoing inspections by the FDA at its independent manufacturing plant this coming week.
This comes after the plant has reportedly been battling issues including having to throw away about 15 million doses just last weekend.
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The Texas Department of State Health Services reported that more than 14 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered as of April 10. About 24% of the population, ages 16 years or older, have been fully vaccinated. The health department reported that it has started seeing a dramatic decrease in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses, going from 500,000 doses shipped this week to 130,000 anticipated doses next week.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he does not anticipate seeing a major impact to the vaccine supply and distribution coming to Houston this week.
"The NRG, for example, where they're doing J&J vaccines, they've already gotten their supply for this week," Turner said at a press conference Saturday afternoon. "We're not expecting any negative impact from the 15 million doses that have to be thrown away of the J&J. So for this coming week, we're going to be fine. It may slow down, let's say in the next week or two or three (weeks) in the ramp-up phase, but in terms of people that have been scheduled or the number that we have already planned - those numbers will be able to meet our target for this coming week, but for us, the primary dosage in our area has been Pfizer and Moderna."
Houston Methodist said it receives the Pfizer vaccine "almost exclusively" and does not anticipate the shortage will impact its hospitals.
Houston's top vaccine expert, Dr. Peter Hotez with the Baylor College of Medicine, said the FDA will also want to take another look at the technology behind the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"That's problem number one, but that's not the only problem," said Hotez. "Because, as you been hearing about another adenovirus vector vaccine, the AstraZeneca one. This is causing cerebral thrombosis, blood clots in the vasculature, draining in the brain - in Europe, and that's caused a lot of concern about giving it to younger people. Well the J&J is similar technology. It's a different adenovirus vector but it's adenovirus, so the FDA is going to want to revisit that as well."
SEE MORE: Houston doctor confident in AstraZeneca vaccine, but says 'messaging has been horrible'
There is currently no timeline on how long the FDA's inspections will take. Hotez said it's going to be a rough road ahead as the country continues to vaccinate as many Americans as possible to reach herd immunity.
"We started getting some momentum, and now with these issues with the J&J vaccine, it's kind of slowed up again," Hotez said. "So, we need to keep it at the pretty aggressive pace, the 3 to 4 million immunizations a day, which is a pretty aggressive pace. We were starting that, and I hope we can keep up the momentum. I think right now, we've made great efforts to create vaccination hubs and make it possible for people to get to those vaccination sites. The issue is all going to come down to supply at this point."
Hotez said the increasing presence of the B.1.1.7 variant is causing a rise in cases in other states across the country.
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"We haven't seen those cases go up in Texas yet, but we should get ready for that, and plan accordingly," Hotez said. "And particularly in young people, adolescence. You have to remember you are not invincible. This is almost like a new virus, and I think that's really important to know."
FULL INTERVIEW: Dr. Peter Hotez confident in summer vaccine levels despite J&J issues
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