Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday called for more "predictability" and "consistency" from the federal government over shipments of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, after a manufacturing error slowed the delivery of doses to the state.
"Whatever the number is going to be, just stay there," Baker said during a press conference in Worcester. "The thing we'd really is like is the same sort of predictability and visibility into the J & J vaccine as we've had into Moderna and Pfizer."
The state got almost 104,000 doses of the vaccine two weeks ago but only 12,300 doses last week. Baker said his understanding was that the manufacturing error at a Baltimore plant was behind the reduced number of Johnson and Johnson doses, and that he would know more about incoming doses tomorrow.
Baker said a steady supply of Johnson & Johnson doses would significantly speed the vaccination process in the state, in large part because it only requires one dose.
Donna and Millard Mitchell, of Lowell, say they were dreading traveling to a mass vaccination site – potentially twice – for COVID vaccines.
“We waited, we waited, we waited, and we said okay now it’s time, let’s go do this, and we lucked out to line up with the Johnson,” said Millard Mitchell.
His wife Donna Mitchell said while laughing, “Nope, don’t have to come back, this is it, the one-time shot, thank you Lord!”
The Johnson and Johnson mobile vaccination clinic in the hardest hit neighborhood in the Mitchell's hometown was the perfect mix of availability and accessibility.
Lowell City Manager Eileen Donoghue said, “It’s a tremendous help because it’s one and done, and the people can leave here knowing that in two weeks they’re fully vaccinated.”
The J&J vaccine made for similar ease of access at the vaccine clinic at the ‘Y’ in Worcester on Saturday – with long lines for those eager to be one and done.
But there is concern about the huge drop in the J&J supply this week and next week.
“Obviously you go from 100,000 doses, which created all kinds of opportunities, to use that one dose in a variety of strategic ways, to the 12,000 to 4,000, makes it really hard to create a sustainable program,” Baker said.
The governor says he hopes to hear more on a call Tuesday about where the supply will stand for J&J two weeks from now.
But Yankee Line, who partnered with the city of Lowell for Monday’s mobile clinic, says they do have backup plans to ensure they can keep providing mobile vaccination clinics for those who need it most.
Michael Costa with Yankee Line said, “Johnson & Johnson obviously is the ideal situation because they can have one and done, and they’re done. We do fortunately have storage and refrigeration onboard for both Moderna and Johnson and Johnson, so if we do need to pivot to that we do have the ability.”
Lowell city officials say they hope to hold mobile vaccine clinics at sites across the city every week going forward, but it’s based on supply.
Baker said if number of doses sent to the state were to return to levels from before the manufacturing error, it would have a "significant increase in vaccination capability."
The company is pledging to resolve the manufacturing issues and is still seeking to meet a goal of delivering 100 million vaccine doses by June.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts is on track this week to pass more than 2 million people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday during a visit to Worcester where he promoted the role of community health centers and touted the 15-year anniversary of the 2006 health care reform law that created the Massachusetts Health Connector.
In a state with a population of roughly 6.9 million people, Baker said more than 1.7 are now fully vaccinated. He said Massachusetts was the first state among those with populations above 5 million to deliver a dose to more than half of adult residents. And in one week, vaccine eligibility in Massachusetts will open up to all residents age 16 and older.