Connecticut’s COVID vaccine allotment has surged in recent weeks, but Johnson & Johnson supply issues could hamper efforts to quickly vaccinate everyone who is eager for a shot.
In two weeks, the amount of first doses coming into Connecticut has doubled from about 150,000 the week of March 22 to 288,000 this week. But this number may be the highest for several weeks as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply drops off, officials said.
The state Department of Public Health’s data shows the surge in new first doses has come largely from an increase in Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which jumped from several thousand in mid-March to more than 100,000 this week.
But an issue with the production of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine led a Maryland manufacturer to discard 15 million doses, officials said.
“Based on what we’ve been told so far, we expect it to go down somewhat next week, based primarily on Johnson & Johnson supply being lower next week than this week,” said Josh Geballe, chief operating officer for Gov. Ned Lamont. “This week is an exceptionally high week for J&J.”
He said the decline in Johnson & Johnson vaccines was “baked into our models going forward.”
“This could be a high-water mark for the next couple weeks, probably getting us through the month,” Geballe said.
Connecticut receives three separate allocations of the vaccine: One to the state government for disbursement to providers, one to pharmacies and a third to federally qualified health centers.
A DPH memo to providers Tuesday said the state government’s allocation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was going to drop to 6,400 doses next week. DPH said the allocation for future weeks could be even lower.
“Most J&J orders for the upcoming week will not be able to be filled. We will work with providers to see if there are ways that alternative products that can be used, but clinic efforts that require J&J may have to be delayed,” DPH said in the memo.
Dr. James Cardon, chief clinical integration officer for Hartford HealthCare, said the network’s nearly 20 clinics “manage to what we are allocated.”
“We adjust what and where we administer on a weekly basis,” he said.
State officials remain confident that despite this drop in Johnson & Johnson supply, everyone who wants a vaccine will get a first dose by the end of the month after eligibility expanded last week to people age 16 and older.
During a visit to a mobile clinic at Rose City Senior Center in Norwich, Lamont said Wednesday his administration is monitoring the situation hourly.
“We tried to target all the J&J to the mobile vans. Just like you see (at the Rose City Senior Center), because these are populations where it’s a lot easier to have one shot and be done,” Lamont said. “We’ll do the Moderna and Pfizer in our more traditional routes. I hope it’s just for two weeks.”
On Wednesday, the state reported a 3.84 positivity rate on new COVID-19 tests. Hospitalizations increased by a net of nine patients to 514 statewide. An additional five deaths were reported for a total of 7,935.
When reports surfaced last week that the Maryland manufacturer had to nix 15 million Johnson & Johnson doses, Connecticut officials quickly dispelled concerns that it would slow the vaccine efforts here.
Acting DPH Commissioner Deidre Gifford said last week that none of the doses delivered to Connecticut came from the facility, and state officials have remained confident in the vaccine.
While the Johnson & Johnson doses have fluctuated considerably in recent weeks, Connecticut continues to receive a steady supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
As of Monday, Connecticut had administered at least one dose of the vaccine to about 45 percent of the population age 16 and older. A total of 1.3 million first doses of the vaccine have been administered and about 800,000 people are fully vaccinated. State officials said about 57,000 doses administered have been the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Providers have welcomed the recent increases in supply as demand is expected to remain high for the next couple of weeks.
Yale New Haven Health opened 35,000 appointments over the past week, and plan to open another 16,000 to 17,000 this week, according to Dr. Ohm Deshpande, the hospital’s vice president of population health.
“Supply hasn’t equalized demand, but it’s getting there,” Deshpande said. “The appointments tend to go quickly, but the number of appointments we are opening is 10 times what we were doing a few weeks ago.”
Staff writer Josh LaBella contributed to this story.