UW’s J&J vaccine supply ‘exhausted’ with vaccine mandate cut-off dates looming
For government employees subject to Gov. Inslee’s vaccine mandate, the deadline to receive two-dose Pfizer or Moderna shots is here. Access to the alternative, single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is currently limited in some parts of Washington state.
Most state, health care, and education employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 per mandates from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. This leaves only a matter of days to receive the first Pfizer dose, while the deadline to receive the first Moderna dose has technically passed.
The definition of “fully vaccinated” accounts for the 14 days needed to build the requisite immune response after the second dose, meaning employees under the mandate should receive the second dose by Oct. 4. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Moderna vaccine requires that its two doses be administered 28 days apart. That would mean the first Moderna shot for employees hoping to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 should have been administered on Sept. 6 at the latest.
The Pfizer vaccine requires only 21 days of waiting between its doses. That leaves Sept. 13 as the last day to receive its first dose.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only a single dose. However, the state’s supply is in question.
UW Medicine currently only offers the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through in-patient programs. Its J&J vaccine supply is stretched.
“The CDC and the state have not been able to order any new J&J vaccine for over a month,” UW Medicine’s Chief Pharmacy Officer Dr. Steven Fijalka told MyNorthwest. “No new supplies have come into the state since then. We exhausted our supply a week or two ago.”
Fijalka has seen an increase in demand for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine recently in light of the vaccine mandate.
“With the mandate of the governor, our employees who might not have originally decided to get vaccinated want the J&J because it’s only one shot,” Fijalka said. “There hasn’t been a new J&J vaccine available in the state for some time. Most organizations are either low or running out due to its expiration date.”
He clarified that the availability issue is less due to demand, and more how to best economize the vaccine’s administration. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine comes in a five dose vial, and when that vial is opened for a single vaccine, the remaining four expire within six hours.
“The request is that if anyone wants a vaccine, you give them a vaccine, no matter what the wastage is,” Fijalka said. “We try to schedule patients as best we can, but often what happens is you give a patient a dose, and you have to waste the other four. While the demand may not be that large, the wastage is higher than you would like to see. It usually expires about six hours after you open a vial. We try to maximize the use out of the vial, but if somebody comes through the emergency department and they’re the only one, they need the vaccine.”
The state Department of Health clarified the Johnson and Johnson vaccine supply currently available.
“As of Sept. 7, there are a total of 53,031 doses of J&J vaccine available in Washington state,” a Washington State Department of Health spokesperson wrote to MyNorthwest. “Vaccine ordering for J&J will reopen tomorrow, Sept. 8. At this time, the CDC has instated an ordering cap of 200 doses of J&J per order per facility each week.”
According to information received from the state’s Office of Financial Management, vaccine mandates will affect roughly 62,000 employees of various state agencies, 150,000 workers in K-12 schools and child care programs, 71,000 in higher education institutions, and 400,000 statewide health care and long-term care workers.
“The state is only going to get so much,” Fijalka added. “If everyone out there orders 200 doses, the state is going to have to make some decisions.”