Johnson & Johnson expiration date extension opens window to get doses out

MADISON, Wis. – The window to administer thousands of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses in the state has been extended.

It comes following concern that batches would go to waste near the end of June. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the state has about 30,000 to 40,000 Johnson & Johnson doses that had been set to expire. CDC data shows about 10 million Johnson & Johnson doses sent to states have yet to be administered nationally.

The FDA approved a six-week expiration date extension for the vaccine, bringing it from a three month shelf-life to four and a half months.

Local distributors call that great news. Mo Kharbat, the regional vice president of pharmacy services at SSM Health, said he’s confident they’ll now be able to use their remaining about 1,500 doses in Wisconsin.

As long as the vaccine is stored properly, Kharbat said there’s no reason to worry about the vaccine being safe and effective.

“It was given a three-month expiration to be on the conservative side, even though most vaccines, if not all vaccines are good for a lot longer than that,” he said.

“It looks like there was a thorough administrative review that was conducted that determined it was not going to lead to any problems if they extended the expiration date, so it’s a good strategy to save those thousands of doses that could potentially expire without losing out on any of the benefit of the vaccine,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, UW Health’s medical director of infection prevention. “It’s a very rigorous process any medication goes through, and vaccines are no exception.”

Safdar said we’ll have to wait and see just how helpful the extension will be.

“I think it depends how many people come forward to get vaccines,” she said.

The surplus is there, Kharbat said, partly because Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was approved after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but also because of the 11-day pause on its distribution and declining interest in general.

“We still believe there are so many people who are still in need of the vaccine, haven’t received the vaccine, and at some point will make the decision to get the vaccine,” Kharbat said.

For some on the fence, having the one-shot option keeps the window open.

“It may seem as if we have more than we need, but actually there’s still a considerable population that could still benefit from it,” Safdar said.

Distributors such as SSM Health and Public Health Madison & Dane County are continuing community clinics, bringing Johnson & Johnson doses there to reach more people. Vaccine outreach continues, as well, including UW Health’s vaccine educator program.