Johnson & Johnson plans to ship nearly 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses this week

The new FDA-authorized Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is arriving at hospitals across the country Tuesday to help with the fight against the pandemic. CBS News spoke to a doctor in Michigan who has been driving vaccines in coolers to rural areas in need every week. He says he is beyond excited about Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine, especially because it can be stored in a regular refrigerator. Errol Barnett reports.

Video Transcript

- There are new signs that America is moving in the right direction against the coronavirus. The first shipments of the new single-dose Johnson & Johnson-- Johnson & Johnson vaccine could arrive in hospitals later today. More than 50 million Americans have already received at least one dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and that includes at least 41 million in just the month of February alone.

- COVID cases are falling in the US, averaging around 66,000 a day over the past week. It's a rate we have not seen since the month of October. However, the CDC warns that it is still too many. Errol Barnett is in Louisville for us again, site of a massive effort to ship the single-dose vaccine out to Americans. We're in a race here, Errol. How long could it take?

ERROL BARNETT: That's right, Tony. Good morning. Well, those doses should be arriving in the next few hours, UPS telling CBS News they've shipped 140,000 of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines overnight. Of course, they expect those numbers to creep up all week as these deliveries continue, the aircraft, the cargo jet you see behind me, just one of the many planes that's part of this gargantuan effort, UPS and FedEx trying to get four million vaccines out to those who desperately need it.

Signed, sealed, and out for delivery, the third coronavirus vaccine beginning its long journey Monday. Here at the UPS healthcare command center in Louisville, Brian Thomas' team is tracking vaccines across the US and Europe.

People should realize, as you take possession of this new vaccine, you're still distributing the two previous vaccines.

BRIAN THOMAS: Absolutely. And so while we're excited to have the new volume come onboard and that represents another provider, we absolutely can't lose track in sight of all of the other responsibilities we have for the existing two providers.

ERROL BARNETT: Of the nearly four million doses going out this week, 2.8 million will go to states, 800,000 for retail pharmacies, and another 160,000 for community vaccine and federally-qualified health centers. Some of those vaccines will end up here in Midland, Michigan in the care of Dr. Richard Bates. CBS News spoke with him in January about his weekly trips north, loading his truck with a cooler of vaccines, driving them roughly three hours to one of Michigan's most geographically isolated hospitals in rural Alpena.

RICHARD BATES: Good evening.

ERROL BARNETT: He's excited about the potential impact of Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine for that community.

RICHARD BATES: I work in Alpena. We're not talking about freeways, so we're talking about, you know, two-lane roads, dirt roads. Sometimes it's hard to get people for the first dose, and then to ask them to come back-- that can be quite a challenge.

ERROL BARNETT: And because this new vaccine can be kept in standard refrigerators, Bates says eventually it could be shipped directly to rural healthcare providers.

RICHARD BATES: I think that's going to be more accessible, and I won't have to be in the transport business.

ERROL BARNETT: Now, Bates also tells CBN News he believes MidMichigan Health expects to receive its first Johnson & Johnson doses later this week. They're aiming to vaccinate homebound individuals, for whom a visit to the clinic is really tough, as well as recently discharged patients, also, migrant workers. Anthony?

- Dr. Richard Bates playing a key transport role there along with UPS and FedEx. Thanks, Errol.

ERROL BARNETT: Absolutely.