City of Detroit turns down more than 6,000 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses

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Posted at 11:34 AM, Mar 05, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is saying "no" to the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, for now.

The city turned down more than 6,000 doses of the single-dose shot this week, which is slightly less effective at preventing COVID-19 in the U.S. at 72%, compared to the double-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots, each around 95%.

Those doses that were turned down were provided to other health departments in the state struggling to get shots in the arms of seniors so they didn't go to waste.

Duggan said for right now, he wants the city to have the best options, and he said that's Pfizer and Moderna.

"Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure residents of the city of Detroit get the best," Duggan said during a press conference Thursday.

Duggan turned down 6,200 doses of the vaccine, made in Grand Rapids. The doses were sent to Detroit this week, on top of its allocated Pfizer and Moderna doses.

"The day may come when we have more Detroiters asking for vaccines than we have Moderna, Pfizer. In which case, we will set up a Johnson & Johnson site," Duggan added during the Thursday event.

During their briefing Friday morning, the White House COVID-19 response team said Duggan's comments were a misunderstanding.

“I do think it’s important to clarify that that was not actually the mayor’s intent and that was not the mayor’s comment. We’ve been in constant dialogue with Mayor Duggan who said, in fact, that was not what he said, or however it was reported. In fact, he is very eager for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and I think we would reiterate the message that for all of us, the first vaccine we have opportunity to take, absolutely makes sense for us to take," said Andy Slavitt, adviser to the White House COVID-19 response team.

Health experts have repeatedly said comparing the three vaccines based on their clinical trials is not a good or fair comparison. And that all three provide 100% protection from severe illness requiring hospitalization with a ventilator and/or death.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials were done later in the pandemic, when more variants and mutations of the virus were included in the mix. It was also tested in South Africa while that country had a strong variant of the coronavirus spreading.

Pfizer and Moderna have not completed trials against the South Africa or other variants of the coronavirus.

Next week, the mayor said Detroit is getting another 25,000-30,000 more Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. This coming as the city again expanded eligibility to residents 50 and older with chronic medical conditions, something the state will do starting Monday.

In a statement to CNN, State Health Department spokesman Bob Wheaton said, "The Johnson and Johnson doses not used by Detroit were provided to other health departments that had lower coverage rates for those aged 65 years or older. All immunizing providers who can manage vaccine storage and management for a vaccine are expected to accept vaccine."