The federal government has ordered Johnson & Johnson to take control of a Baltimore factory being used to produce doses of COVID-19 vaccines after workers at the factory mixed up ingredients for the J&J and AstraZeneca jabs being prepared at the factory, spoiling 15MM doses, the latest - and biggest - case of spoiled batches in the US.
Reports of the spoiled jabs created a major headache for the Biden Administration, which has made the vaccine rollout its most urgent political priority. The Administration is rumored to have pressured Democratic governors to publicly receive the JNJ vaccine on camera to send the message that the jab is safe to the public. Argentine President Alberto Fernandez recently tested positive after falling ill, despite having been vaccinated with a Russian-made vaccine that's similar to the AstraZeneca jab. His case has stoked fears that it might cause more to question the efficacy of vaccines.
The Gameleya Institute, which created the Russian jab, said it's data show the vaccine is more than 91% effective at preventing COVID infection, and 100% effective at preventing serious infection. In other words, some patients who are fully vaccinated may still be infected, but - at least in theory - the infections won't be as severe. President Fernandez's case likely would have been far more severe had he not received the jab, the institute suggested.
There's also been speculation that the rising number of cases can be, at least partly, attributed to false positives from PCR tests that may be picking up dead viral RNA, or are otherwise falsely triggered by patients with no symptoms to speak of. David Stockman argues that 60%-80% of new cases in the US not medical cases at all, but are asymptomatic individuals who got swabbed and had their nasal secretions run to at 35-40+ CTs on the PCR test, which immense magnification systematically generates false positives based on harmless RNA fragments and dead viral debris.
At any rate, as public anxieties about the latest wave of COVID cases intensifies, he US Department of Health & Human Services has given Johnson & Johnson full responsibility of the Emergent BioSolutions facility in Baltimore in the hope that J&J will prevent any further production disruptions.
And now, AstraZeneca, which has seen the reputation of its jab suffer as more European governments halt its use over concerns about rare blood clots that have proven deadly.
Despite these obstacles, the US vaccine rollout has continued to accelerate, with the US topping 4MM new vaccinations per day for the last two days.
An anonymous US official reportedly told the NYT that Johnson & Johnson will now be the only vaccine manufacturer in charge of the facility in a move that "is meant to avoid future mix-ups."
Reports claimed human error had led to the mix-up of the two vaccines’ ingredients, ruining the batch of 15MM doses. The US is on the cusp of 165MM vaccine doses administered, a level it will likely surpass by Tuesday. Still, Bloomberg data show only 20% of the US adult population is fully vaccinated, well below the 70% believed to be the threshold for "herd immunity."
According to the New York Times, "one or more workers somehow confused the two" vaccine ingredients on the production line back in February and the error "went undiscovered for days until Johnson & Johnson’s quality control checks uncovered it," which prompted a federal probe into the error.<
Though the affected vaccines were soon quarantined, the loss of the batch is without a doubt a major blow to Biden's push to get 200MM Americans fully vaccinated by the end of his first 100 days in office. Public health officials have convinced the administration that containing the virus is essentially a race to vaccinate the population as quickly as possible.
Now that Australia has acknowledged a link between the AstraZeneca jab and the rare blood clots, the odds the AstraZeneca jab will be approved in the US following a string of reports about potentially severe rare side effects dating back to the trials, have fallen. Without it, the US will need to depend more on the JNJ jab, despite questions about its efficacy.
In other words: readers should keep an eye on the Baltimore factory for any further signs of trouble, as it represents a major "chokepoint" for the US vaccine rollout.