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FDA: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine shelf life extended for 6 weeks

For weeks, many local health departments, with an abundance of Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been transferring doses to other providers that need them.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There was great concern from health officials on the possibility of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine expiring across the country in a couple weeks.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now says those doses are good for an additional six weeks.

June 23: that’s the date many local health officials had circled on their calendar, the date doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccine would expire.

For weeks, many local health departments tell us, they’ve been working on using J&J doses up and transferring doses.

"We have done a lot of redistributing vaccine to providers who want that for their patients," said Paul Pettit, the public health director in Genesee and Orleans counties.

Niagara and Chautauqua counties have also been transferred doses as well.

On Thursday, the FDA now says those doses – once believed to be expiring soon – are good for an additional six weeks.

In a press release, Johnson & Johnson says the decision is based on data from ongoing studies of the vaccine.

"That’s excellent. You know why? People forget we’re in an experimental moment here," said Dr. LaVonne Ansari, the CEO of Community Health Center of Buffalo.

"We’re finding out great things that’s happening with Johnson & Johnson, particularly the levels of neutralizing the antibodies that prevents the virus, so each day, we’re learning more and more so we can begin to educate the people, so we can get people to take the vaccine."

Ansari says the J&J shelf life extension will help local health departments.

"It gives us more time to do better planning. The reason why we had this abundance is because we didn’t have a good plan to begin with, to get these vaccines distributed, period, particularly in areas that need it the most, which were particularly neighborhoods of color," Dr. Ansari said. 

Added Pettit: "We are working with some other providers and businesses to try to set up some more of these pop-up clinics where we’ve had some success in getting rid of some Johnson & Johnson." 

As a reminder, the J&J vaccine is only authorized for people 18 years old and older. In many cases, Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine has been used in hard-to-reach communities.