Johnson & Johnson Halts Shipment of COVID Vaccine After Factory Mistake Ruins 15 Million Doses

Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccines at Northwell Health’s South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y., March 3, 2021. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The Department of Health and Human Services has placed Johnson & Johnson in charge of a Baltimore factory where an ingredient mix-up between vaccines of that company and those of AstraZeneca ruined 15 million doses, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The factory, which is managed by Emergent BioSolutions, will only make vaccines designed by Johnson & Johnson and will cease production of AstraZeneca shots. Workers at the factory reportedly mixed up ingredients from the vaccines several weeks ago. The Food and Drug Administration, however, has not yet authorized the use of vaccines made at the facility, meaning that none of the botched doses were administered in the U.S.

Johnson & Johnson is “assuming full responsibility regarding the manufacturing of drug substance” at the factory, the company said in a statement. Additionally, Johnson & Johnson “is adding dedicated leaders for operations and quality, and significantly increasing the number of manufacturing, quality and technical operations personnel to work with the company specialists already at Emergent.”

AstraZeneca said in a statement that it “will work with the U.S .Government to identify an alternative location for domestic [vaccine] production.”

The FDA gave emergency authorization to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in late February. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has not yet received emergency authorization.

The U.S. government paid Emergent BioSolutions $628 million to reserve production space at its Baltimore facility in June 2020, as part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. In the past, the FDA would usually allow production of only one vaccine at a given factory to avoid mix-ups between materials, experts on vaccine production told the Times.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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