J&J pauses COVID-19 vax production, says report

Feb. 10, 2022

Johnson & Johnson paused COVID-19 vaccine production at a Dutch facility located in the city of Leiden, opting to manufacture a vaccine for R.S.V. instead, according to an exclusive report from the New York Times.

At the time of the pause, the Dutch facility was the only plant making usable batches of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The J&J vaccine has been extremely popular in developing countries because does not require ultra cold refrigeration — unlike Pfizer's Comirnaty and Moderna's Spikevax — making it the most accessible option. The single-shot regimen is also easier and less expensive to deliver to hard-to-reach populations.

Although J&J says vaccine stockpiles will carry the company through the pause, sources for NYT familiar with the matter report that delays could reduce supplies by a few hundred million doses. Even after the Leiden factory resumes production, new doses likely won’t be shipped until May or June. 

J&J has a network of hired factories capable of producing the vaccine, but supply chain issues have made deliveries tough. Emergent's Bayview facility had to suspend operations after the U.S. FDA said it failed to meet federal manufacturing standards and the other plants — in North Carolina and India — are not expected to produce usable vaccine substances until late spring, said the NYT. 

Even before the pause, J&J was falling behind in vaccine delivery. The company promised to deliver one billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 but only released 400 million doses, a source close to the matter told the NYT.

To make matters more complicated, two of the company’s largest customers, the African Union and Covax, the clearinghouse responsible for getting vaccines to developing countries, found out about the pause via a report from NYT.

The African Union ordered 220 million doses and has been receiving deliveries on or ahead of schedule, the NYT reports. Covax, on the other hand, was expecting to supply up to 200 million doses of the J&J vaccine in 2021 but only received four million. In January, 151,000 doses arrived, according to the nonprofit.

Unlike Pfizer and Moderna, J&J has not reaped huge profits from its COVID-19 vaccine. It generated about $2.4 billion in sales last year, compared to Pfizer’s $36 billion.