California expecting nearly 90% drop in J&J vaccines next week, leading to fewer first-shot appointments

California is expecting about 90% fewer Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses next week, marking a significant decrease in the total number of doses that will lead to fewer first-time appointments, even as the state expands eligibility to any resident over age 16 on April 15.

State health officials anticipate that allocations of all COVID-19 vaccines will drop by 367,000 doses next week to about 2 million total, down from about 2.4 million doses received this week, said California Department of Public Health spokesperson Darrel Ng said Wednesday night. Doses are expecting to drop again to about 1.9 million the week after next.

The entirety of the decrease is comprised of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Ng said, which will shrink 88% from 575,000 doses this week to about 68,000 next week. Ng declined to comment on the matter beyond confirming allocation numbers.

In Santa Clara County, Blue Shield representatives told health officials late Wednesday that allocations would dwindle next week, said County Executive Jeff Smith, but have not confirmed exactly how much. Although the state expects a small increase in both Pfizer and Moderna doses next week, counties must first schedule second-dose appointments, meaning that those who have yet to get a dose could be out of luck for weeks.

“With the decreased amount of J&J, it’ll slow down new first doses considerably,” Smith said.

Officials in Contra Costa County — which opened up vaccines to everyone 16 and older in late March — are likewise expecting a significant drop in vaccine allocations. Supervisor John Gioia, who is also on the executive committee for the California State Association of Counties, said that the interruption will “disappoint many people expecting to get vaccinated soon.”

“We’re concerned that this supply decrease will slow our ability to outrun the new more highly infectious COVID-19 variants,” he said.

San Mateo County Health is also anticipating a “significant reduction” in vaccine doses from the state, department chief Louise Rogers said in a statement, although an increase in supply is expected by the end of April. San Mateo County will receive 11,450 doses, down from 17,420 the previous week, although those numbers don’t include doses provided by Blue Shield directly to Stanford Health, Gellert Health and Safeway pharmacies.

“With this allocation, we are able to manage second-dose clinics this week and have scaled back plans for first-dose clinics,” she said.

County officials said the state did not explain why J&J supplies had declined so precipitously; Ng directed all further questions to the federal government. Other states, including Florida and New Jersey, reported similar declines in supply Wednesday.

In California, however, the steep drop-off comes just days before the state plans to open eligibility to everyone above age 16 on April 15th — and one day after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a dramatic reopening plan that hinges in part on vaccine supply. The plan would end the current tiered reopening system for counties on June 15th and allow practically all businesses statewide to resume operations at full capacity both indoors and outside.

Announcing the plan Tuesday, Newsom said he did not expect the state’s allocations of vaccines to rise substantially until May, but did not hint at the possibility that supplies would decline. He acknowledged though that getting vaccines to all Californians in the widening eligibility pool “is going to take some time, a number of weeks, perhaps over a month.”

Staff writer Leonardo Castañeda contributed to this report.

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Author: Fiona Kelliher