SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — A last-minute extension from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saved millions of Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses from being thrown out. Some were set to expire on Aug. 7.
For the second time since giving the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine emergency authorization, the FDA extended the drug's shelf life. In Ohio, that means hundreds of thousands of doses will be available for people who want the single shot.
"We're happy and we're going to continue because we have groups, we have individuals who only want J&J," said Donna Skoda, the Summit County Health Commissioner.
The FDA announced Thursday the vials of the vaccines can now stay on shelves for six months. That's an extension from the four and a half month life the agency gave earlier this year. The FDA warns this timeline is only good if the vaccines are stored properly.
For Skoda, the change was welcome news.
"We were absolutely thrilled because it's 3,500 doses we have here that we were going to have to throw out," she said.
Plagued by production issues and a temporary pause in distribution after rare side effects, the demand for the J&J vaccine isn't as high as Pfizer or Moderna. Nationally, only 13 million people got the single shot from J&J.
Locally, "I would probably say that's about 20% that will only take J&J," Skoda said.
But, even with the extension "we were estimating we weren't going to use all of them."
Holmes County Health Department officials said the extension won't make a "significant" impact on the vaccination rates there.
Skoda is trying to make sure the J&J vials are used before they expire.
"We've been reaching out to some schools and nursing homes and places where we know individuals are often turning over," she said.