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SF's Vaccine Supply to Drop by One-Third in April Due to Johnson & Johnson Snafu

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

  • San Francisco is expecting its vaccine allocations to drop by 33% to 35% in the month of April due to a steep decline in Johnson & Johnson doses

  • A Johnson & Johnson manufacturer, Emergent Biosolutions, had to toss out 15 million vaccines due to an error. Additionally, public health officials are pausing the single-dose vaccine due to a reported side effect

  • California is expecting its federal vaccine allocations to fall to 1.9 million the week of April 18, compared to 2.4 million last week, and is directing providers to prioritize second doses

  • Vaccine eligibility opened up to anyone aged 16 and over this week, which, combined with the drop in supply, could cause a near-term crunch in appointments for first doses

An error by manufacturers of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is triggering a temporary dip in vaccinations across local jurisdictions nationwide, including in San Francisco. And as of Tuesday, local health providers were pausing the use of the single-dose vaccine in light of an "extremely rare" side effect.

Last week, California warned that vaccine allocations by the federal government will fall substantially for the next two weeks, from 2.4 million total doses during the week of April 4 to 2 million this week. For the week of April 18, California is expecting 1.9 total million doses.

Allocations to San Francisco are expected to drop commensurately, potentially impacting the availability of appointments in April.

The reason is a steep drop in Johnson & Johnson allocations, which will plunge more than 90% in California from about 580,000 last week to just 22,000 next week. The drugmaker had to discard 15 million doses of the single-dose vaccine due to "human error" at an Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore, which manufactures the doses. Employees at the plant accidentally mixed ingredients found in the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, the New York Times reported. Additionally, federal health officials advised jurisdictions on Tuesday to pause use of Johnson & Johnson vaccines until a rare reported side effect, blood clotting, is further investigated.

San Francisco's COVID Command Center said that it has administered about 33,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines to date with no known cases of blood clotting, but is pausing their use "out of an abundance of caution." It was only allocated

San Francisco county is expecting its vaccine allocations to dip by between 33% and 35% for the month of April, largely due to the absence of new Johnson & Johnson doses. The federal government is also boosting direct allocations to pharmacies, which aren't included in the state or county weekly allocation figures.

"As the City only received 500 doses of Johnson & Johnson (out of 10,000 doses total) this week, this pause will not have a significant impact on this week’s vaccination efforts," said San Francisco's COVID Command Center in an email.

"However, the state indicated that the vaccine supply for all three vaccines would increase by the end of the month," said San Francisco's COVID Command Center on Monday.

The City expects supply of all three available vaccines to increase by the end of the month. But in the near term, the supply crunch could result in an appointment crunch for first doses.

On Tuesday, San Francisco opened up vaccine eligibility to anyone over the age of 16, two days earlier than planned. However, the state is directing local providers to prioritize second doses during the near-term supply shortage.

San Francisco's Department of Public Health, which is administering doses through a handful of community clinics and other City-run facilities, is expecting 10,000 doses this week, down from around 16,000 doses last week according to county allocation data. Allocations to other providers, such as Kaiser, Dignity Health and University of California, are also due to drop.

San Francisco hasn't yet received specific allocation numbers for next week, and neither the county nor the state of California can provide a specific projection yet on when allocations will return to the levels attained prior to the Johnson & Johnson snafu.

Total daily doses administered in San Francisco, among all providers except pharmacies, Veterans Affairs and One Medical, peaked at more than 14,700 on April 7 but has since dropped off. About 5,600 doses were administered in San Francisco on April 11, a decline compared to 9,800 the prior Sunday. Saturdays and Sundays are the lowest-volume vaccination days.

As of Monday, 57% of San Francisco residents over the age of 16 had received at least one doze, along with 83% of residents over 65.

Provided that COVID hospitalizations remain low, and vaccines supply is sufficient to meet demand, California plans to lift COVID restrictions and ditch its color-coded risk assignment system by June 15.

San Francisco is currently in the orange tier, indicating "moderate" spread of COVID. Despite earlier indications that it could qualify for the yellow tier this week, San Francisco will remain in the orange tier due to a slight uptick in new cases in recent days.

San Francisco's averaging 38 new COVID cases per day at the beginning of April, compared to 30 cases yer day in mid-March.


Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup

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