Johnson & Johnson supply issues likely to delay vaccination campaign by 3 weeks says Health Minister

The Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) has told VRT News that the supply issues with the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine will cause delays to the vaccination campaign here in Belgium. On Friday the European Medicine’s Agency (EMA) announced that the batches of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that have been withheld due to production issues at a plant in the US will not be released. Instead, they will be destroyed.

Mr Vandenbroucke told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ that this will mean that the vaccination campaign here will probably suffer delays of around 3 weeks. 

The second in command at the EMA Noël Wathion said on Friday that 17 million doses of the vaccine will be destroyed in Europe. Of these 2.4 million are being stored at Johnson & Johnson’s facility at Beerse in Antwerp Province.  

Mr Vandebroucke says that the decision to destroy the vaccines was made after the authorities in the United States discovered quality issues with vaccines produced at a factory in Baltimore. “The American authorities have decided to destroy the mixed vaccines. The European Authorities judged that the vaccines produced at the factory possibly had the same issues and they were temporarily kept under lock and key. It is now clear that they will be permanently withheld”.

Initially Belgium had hoped to receive 1.4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of June. “However, by the end of June we will only have around 450,000. Some of this had been taken into account in our planning. For some time now we had not been expecting 1.4 million. But it does still mean a delay”, Mr Vandenbroucke said. He added that he expects that the total delay will be around three weeks.

"We don’t know how many vaccines Johnson & Johnson will delivery in July. But let’s remain optimistic and not panic. The vaccination campaign in Flanders is going especially well”.

 

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