Detroit Mayor Rejects Initial J&J Vaccine Shipment, Saying Pfizer and Moderna Are ‘the Best'

Johnson & Johnson via Reuters
  • Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan rejected the initial allotment of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine offered by the state this week.
  • He said there was sufficient supply of Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines to cover demand.
  • Clinical trial data shows J&J's vaccine is 66% effective overall at protecting against Covid, compared with about 95% for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan rejected an initial allotment of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine this week, according to the Michigan state health department.

At a press briefing Thursday, Duggan confirmed he declined this week's allocation of J&J vaccines from the state, citing sufficient supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to cover demand from eligible residents.

"Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best. And I am going to do everything I can to make sure that residents of the city of Detroit get the best," Duggan said at a press briefing Thursday.

The FDA on Saturday authorized J&J's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, making it the third shot to be approved for distribution in the U.S. and the only vaccine that requires just one dose.

Clinical trial data shows J&J's vaccine is 66% effective overall at protecting against Covid, compared with about 95% for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. While some have raised concern over the J&J vaccine's lower efficacy rate, the J&J vaccine has proven to prevent 100% of virus-related hospitalizations and deaths, according to its clinical trial data.

"All of the vaccines are safe and effective and I recommend that all vaccines be offered in all communities," Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan's chief medical executive, said in a statement to CNBC.

"Also, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was studied in a more recent time period with more easily transmitted variants, so I would not recommend comparing the studies with Pfizer and Moderna directly to the studies on Johnson and Johnson," Khaldun said.

At a Friday press briefing, White House senior Covid advisor Andy Slavitt said Duggan's comments on the J&J vaccine were misunderstood.

"We have been in constant dialogue with Mayor Duggan. ... He is very eager for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And I think we would reiterate the message that for all of us, the very first vaccine we can take makes absolute sense to take," Slavitt said.

In a statement later on Friday, Duggan reiterated the efficacy of the J&J shot at preventing Covid-related hospitalization and death.

"The only reason we chose to not accept the first shipment of Johnson & Johnson was that we had enough capacity with Moderna and Pfizer to handle the 29,000 first and second dose appointments scheduled for the coming week, which already put us very close to our capacity at our current locations," Duggan said in a statement Friday.

The J&J allocation that Duggan rejected comprised 6,200 doses, which were distributed to other local health departments in Michigan, according to state health department spokesperson Bob Wheaton.

Wheaton said the state does not expect to receive more J&J vaccines "for another couple of weeks."

Duggan said the city will open a new vaccination site for J&J shots when demand from eligible residents exceeds its supply of Moderna and Pfizer's doses.

"We always intended to distribute Johnson & Johnson once the demand warranted it and we had our distribution plan in place so we can make it just as accessible to our residents as we have Moderna and Pfizer," Duggan said in the Friday statement. "By the time the next J&J shipment arrives, we will have our plan in place to make it available."

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