US says removal of AstraZeneca vaccine from production plant will not affect dose output

Coronavirus Vaccine

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — A U.S. government decision to end production of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine at Emergent BioSolutions Inc’s Baltimore manufacturing facility is not an indication of concerns about its safety or effectiveness and will not impact the output of doses, a White House official said on Monday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ordered Johnson & Johnson to take charge of production at the plant that was being used to produce both vaccines. Emergent was told to stop making AstraZeneca’s shot after the contract manufacturer made an error that ruined 15 million J&J COVID-19 vaccine doses.

“This is not a decision that in any way has anything to do with any concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine,” White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters during a virtual news conference.

The AstraZeneca shot, which is being used in dozens of countries, has been under increased scrutiny over reports of extremely rare but serious blood clots in the brain in some people who received the vaccine.

The U.S. manufacturing mistake occurred several weeks ago, when it was discovered that a batch of J&J vaccine had been contaminated with ingredients from AstraZeneca’s vaccine, it was reported last week.

J&J on Saturday reiterated that it will deliver 100 million doses to the government by the end of May. Emergent said on Sunday would ramp down production of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Baltimore plant

AstraZeneca, whose vaccine has not yet been authorized for use in the United States, said it will work with President Joe Biden’s administration to find an alternative production site.

“This is a decision that HHS made with Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca in complete collaboration,” Slavitt said.

However, Fauci said last week that the United States may not need AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, even if it wins regulatory approval.

Fauci said the United States has enough contracts with other vaccine makers to vaccinate its entire population, and possibly enough for booster shots in the fall.

Asked whether the United States will use the AstraZeneca vaccine doses, he said, “That’s still up in the air. My general feeling is that given the contractual relationships that we have with a number of companies, that we have enough vaccine to fulfill all of our needs without invoking AstraZeneca.”

Slavitt also said during Monday’s briefing that nearly one-in-three Americans have had at least one COVID-19 shot and more than 55% of seniors have been fully vaccinated.

About 61.4 million people, or 18.5% of the U.S. population, have been fully inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer Inc/ BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson, according to CDC data. 32% of the U.S. population, or 100.6 million adults had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Reporting by Carl O’Donnell Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot. Reuters contributed to this report.

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