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LA’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan To Be Impacted By Johnson & Johnson Snafu

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A pharmacist from UCI Health preps a COVID-19 vaccine for injection. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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An expected April surge of COVID-19 vaccine supply led Gov. Gavin Newsom to expand eligibility to Californians 50-and-over on April 1, and 16-and-over two weeks later. But a manufacturing problem that caused millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be thrown out may delay shots in L.A.’s hardest hit communities.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one shot so they are vital for populations that have trouble getting to clincs -- people experiencing homelessness as well as people with disabilities or ambulatory issues -- the population that needs to be vaccinated the most. They are also utilized at vaccination pop-up sites around the county, as well as some mass vaccination sites.

“That is going to set us back,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

“We were, here in L.A. County, anticipating that about 20% of our doses over the next three months would be Johnson & Johnson doses,” Ferrer said. “We rely so heavily on having increased production. There can be problems and challenges that are unanticipated, and we'll have to adjust for that.”

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Ferrer said her department would continue to move vaccine doses around to target areas of the county that have been hardest hit by the virus.

Health officials are racing to get the majority of adults immunized by June as cases in other parts of the country rise.

As of Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson had provided about 6.8 million doses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's online vaccine tracker.

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