Johnson & Johnson vaccine production error forces state to adjust plans

Sten Spinella, The Day, New London, Conn.
·4 min read

Apr. 9—Gov. Ned Lamont said that issues with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will affect Connecticut's mobile vaccination vans and its plans to vaccinate college students.

During a Thursday afternoon news conference, Lamont and his chief operating officer, Josh Geballe, specifically mentioned a facility in Baltimore that had to destroy millions of doses of vaccine after an error last week. The state had originally been told that next week it would receive 20,000 Johnson & Johnson doses. That number has dropped to 6,000, and the week after that, it could be as low as 2,000, depending on when the Baltimore plant is fully operational again.

The governor's administration had planned to vaccinate college students with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during clinics, as they wouldn't have time for a second dose of vaccine before leaving for the summer, Geballe said.

"What we're going to do is give them at least a first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, and the governor has been working with the White House and other governors to encourage them to do the same," Geballe said. He explained that by mid- to late-May, states will have extra vaccines available and can provide the second doses for students who received their first dose elsewhere.

Geballe said the logistics and scheduling for vaccination clinics at colleges and universities will be determined in the coming weeks.

Lamont later elaborated on Geballe's comments.

"I'm working very closely with the White House, trying to make sure this is a national initiative so every college kid around the country gets that vaccination shot before they fly back to Connecticut," he said.

The decreased Johnson & Johnson supply has caused the state to rethink its fleet of mobile vaccination vans, which were intended to administer the one-dose vaccines.

"Our current plan is to prioritize the vast majority of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine we do receive to the mobile units, both the FEMA mobile unit which is traveling the state as well as the other mobile vans," Geballe said. "We are working on contingency plans in case we do need to supply some of those mobile units with either Pfizer or Moderna — how we would do that and how we would make sure we have second dose appointments for people who do receive through those mobile units."

Lamont and Geballe said they were confident that Connecticut has and will have enough vaccines for everybody. The governor urged young people to get vaccinated, bringing on state Sen. Will Haskell (D-Westport) and Middletown Common Councilman Ed Ford Jr., both younger politicians, to talk about their experience getting the vaccine.

Lamont dangled the possibility of opening nightclubs if the younger demographic can get its vaccine numbers up.

"We'd like to get bars and nightclubs open, maybe a few more young people get vaccinated, we'll feel a lot more confident heading in that direction," he said. The governor later added that the infection rate, hospitalizations and the vaccination rate will contribute to a decision to open bars and nightclubs.

Updated virus statistics

The governor gave an update on COVID-19 vaccination statistics, including that 49% of all adults aged 16-plus have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Of those aged 65-plus, 82% have received their first dose; 69% of people between the ages of 55 and 64 have received their first dose; and 51% of people between the ages of 45 and 54. A total of 2,230,742 doses have been administered, with 883,169 people fully vaccinated and 1,421,831 first doses administered.

Cases continue to crop up, with 1,012 new cases detected among 42,067 tests in the previous 24 hours, a positivity rate of 2.41%. Hospitalizations increased by one to 515, while five additional deaths pushed the toll since the pandemic began in March 2020 to 7,940.

The latest state numbers show New London County currently has 18 people hospitalized by COVID-19 and 21,053 total cases, an increase of about 75 cases since Monday's statistics were released. On Monday, the county had 424 total deaths reported. That number remains the same as of press time on Thursday.

s.spinella@theday.com