The White House announced Wednesday that the US will send three million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to Brazil on Thursday. The country’s virus cases and deaths are picking up again, with the death toll exceeding 500,000.
Less than a third of the country’s population has received at least one injection, and for the past week the country has reported an average of 74,490 new cases per day – a 26 percent increase from the average two weeks ago.
The vaccines, due to arrive in Campinas, near São Paulo, are part of President Biden’s promise to ship 80 million doses overseas by the end of the month, a White House official said. The official added that “scientific teams and legal and regulatory authorities” from the United States and Brazil had worked to secure the deal.
The shipment to Brazil was followed by a shipment to Taiwan last weekend: 2.5 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine. Mr Biden, who has been under heavy pressure to increase his overseas vaccine obligations, announced this month that his government will buy 500 million doses of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and distribute it to about 100 countries over the next year.
When asked if the government would send vaccines to Brazil, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, told a pandemic news conference last week that the United States is working with other countries on intricate logistical issues, including securing needles, syringes, and alcohol swabs that would come with the medicine.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which offers high levels of protection against virus cases, hospital admissions, and death, is facing a decline in demand in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended discontinuation of use in April after a rare blood clotting disorder was reported in a small number of people who had received the vaccine and interested in admission.
Due to production problems at a Baltimore facility operated by a subcontractor, Emergent BioSolutions, Johnson & Johnson was able to deliver less than half of the 100 million cans it had promised the federal government by the end of this month. According to CDC data, just over half of the Johnson & Johnson doses shipped to the states to date have been given.
About two-thirds of the doses the US sends to Brazil come from a federal pool that contains vaccines that states don’t order, the White House said. About a third of it was made at Emergent and recently approved by the FDA in a special review of the facility and the cans made there.
Earlier this month, the FDA cleared approximately 10 million cans for use in the United States or for export, with the understanding that regulators cannot guarantee that Emergent has met manufacturing standards.
Last week the agency released another 15 million doses of Emergent. It is also checking other lots of the vaccine to see if they are safe. A decision is expected shortly.