SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California expects to start administering the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week and to receive more than 1.1 million of the single-dose shots in the next three weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday.
The vaccine, still in the final federal approval process, has fewer handling restrictions than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now being used. Those vaccines require two doses to be fully effective and must be stored at extremely low temperatures.
The Biden administration has told California it can expect to receive 380,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines next week and Newsom said he expects the same amount each week for three weeks, but it’s just a preview.
“It’s consistent based on that three-week window,” he said at a Fresno news conference. “We will figure out where to land in terms of the distribution.”
He said the new, more easily handled one-dose vaccine will be particularly helpful for those in agricultural areas of the Central Valley, including farmworkers.
“Now we’ll have three (different vaccines) and we’ll see that manufactured supply go north of 380,000, very confidently — end of March we’ll see those begin to significantly increase,” Newsom said.
Distribution of the J&J vaccine still is contingent upon federal Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention action, though Newsom said he is confident of the quick approval and availability.
If the J&J vaccine is authorized, U.S. officials expect to have only a few million doses to divide between states in initial shipments. But by the end of March, J&J has said it can supply enough to vaccinate 20 million people — a much-needed boost to stretched supplies.
Addition of the J&J vaccine would come as California is seeing dramatic drops in virus cases and hospitalizations after record highs in early January. The 5,590 people hospitalized now are only about a quarter of the peak total, while the rate of people testing positive in the last week fell to 2.7%.
“There’s bright light at the end of the tunnel,” Newsom said during what have become near-daily appearances at vaccination centers around the state.
Newsom, a Democrat, faces the possibility of a recall election later this year over his handling of the pandemic, and regardless must run for reelection next year. And despite the positive trends there remains continued uncertainty over unequal, sometimes chaotic, vaccine distribution and testing.
Six weeks ago the state was seeking extra body bags from other states as deaths spiraled, he said. Now the state has 130 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to the 261 deaths per 100,000 in New York, he said.
That’s a function of people taking safety precautions, Newsom said, but in addition “we are transitioning” to a time of more vaccines available to a wider proportion of the population.
“We are protecting more and we’re providing more support,” he said.