BOSTON -- Gov. Charlie Baker Wednesday said the FDA’s decision to recommend pausing distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was a positive.
“I would argue, in some respects, the decision the FDA and CDC made here based on six cases out of 7 million [doses distributed] to put a pause on this and take a look at it is an example of the system working the way it should,” Baker said. “In an abundance of caution, they put out the word that, ‘We need to take a look at this,’ and that’s what they’re doing.
Baker referred back to an incident earlier this month when problems were reported at a Johnson & Johnson vaccine production site.
“I got asked the same question after Baltimore,” Baker said. “Baltimore, to me, is the same thing. It’s pretty clear these guys saw there was an issue, stopped it, ran an investigation. That’s what you want the process to be.”
Baker, who has been touting the usefulness of a single-shot vaccine to help stem the pandemic since before Johnson & Johnson received an emergency use authorization in late February, met the press Wednesday morning for the first time since the FDA’s Tuesday announcement that it was recommending a pause.
The governor was asked for his gut reaction to that Tuesday news.
“My first reaction was, I’m glad they’re taking a look at this based on available data, but, of course, as someone who wants to see people get vaccinated -- Marylou [Sudders] got the J&J, I’d take the J&J, I still would, if it was offered,” Baker said. “But I think it’s important for the feds to do their homework on this.
“The last thing we want to do is make decisions based on anything less than the best available information.”
Baker appeared with Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and other officials on Wednesday to announce “Red Sox Week at the Hynes,” a weeklong effort starting Monday to promote vaccinations to the most vulnerable populations in cooperation with the Boston Red Sox and the vaccination clinic at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center.
He addressed the issue of setback for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in his opening remarks, but it was the focus of most of the questions he received from the media members in attendance.
Baker emphasized that the commonwealth was scheduled to receive much more two-shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccine even before the pause.
“In the immediate future, we’re expecting minimum disruption to scheduled appointments,” Baker said. “For example, this week the commonwealth received 11,600 doses of J&J as part of our state allocation. We’re receiving 340,000 doses of Moderna and Pfizer as part of that same state allocation. J&J, therefore, accounted for about 3 percent of this week’s doses.”
He again emphasized that the commonwealth has more capacity to distribute vaccines than it has supplies from the federal government, though the state has been told to expect a modest increase in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines next month.
“Most of the doses we administer in the commonwealth are Pfizer and Moderna doses,” Baker said. “I’ve always thought of J&J as an accelerant to where we already are. … We still have a fairly significant base we’re building on. We have a ton more capacity [to distribute vaccinations], if the supply is there, with or without the J&J.”
One area where the Johnson & Johnson pause may make an impact: the commonwealth’s program to distribute vaccinations to homebound residents.
“Obviously, we’re waiting for the guidance that comes out from the CDC and the FDA,” Sudders said. “They’re meeting today, and that will guide our decisions. But we are quite capable of taking the homebound program and converting it to a two-dose program.
“If that’s what we need to do, it’s not going to stop the homebound program at all. We’ll convert it into a two-dose program. It makes it a little more logistically challenging, but we certainly can do that. Some of our mobile programs at this point use Moderna. It’s a bump, and we’re looking forward to getting the guidance from the FDA and CDC, and we’ll pivot accordingly.”
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