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Wasted 15 million Johnson & Johnson doses affecting local South Carolina pharmacies

Johnson and Johnson says they hope to have 24 million vaccines out by the end of April.
Johnson and Johnson says they hope to have 24 million vaccines out by the end of April.(Source: (Morgan Newell, WBTV))
Updated: Apr. 1, 2021 at 5:23 PM EDT
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) -Pharmacies in South Carolina could soon go weeks without fresh doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

It is all because of a mistake made more than 400 miles away. A mix up of vaccine ingredients at a manufacturing plant in Baltimore has ruined 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They say the plant combined two ingredients that spoiled the millions of doses. Tens of thousands of those doses were meant for South Carolina. The company does not know when it will be able to start shipping more doses.

It is a huge blow for the state -- already fighting a limited vaccine supply. We told you last week several local Johnson & Johnson pharmacies were not getting doses for two to three weeks. It was because of a supply problem, according to South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Nick Davidson.

South End Pharmacy, which is in Rock Hill, just got a few hundred doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this past Monday. They waited two and a half weeks to get those. Now, they fear it could be a waiting game all over again. Tim Dunlap, a pharmacist and co-owner of South End Pharmacy, not new to giving out vaccines, but these Johnson and Johnson boxes are new to his pharmacy fridge.

”We’re very excited we were working on getting the qualifications for months. We are happy to be vaccinating,” says Dunlap.

Dunlap says the shots flew off the shelves as soon as they got them. As time went on, the vaccine boxes became empty with no new ones coming in.

”We put in several requests but none of them were able to be fulfilled,” says Dunlap. “It was a little frustrating.”

Right now, he is giving out the few doses he has left, but the 15 million wasted doses and delayed future shipments means he could soon be waiting for doses again.

”What concerns us is we have schedules with several hundred people and we might have to call them and tell them we don’t have the doses,” he says.

Dunlap says a nervous feeling is creeping in, that he will be once again waiting for doses for weeks. Already twice this month he has had to stop scheduling new appointments, but he is keeping his head down and working with what he has with hopes some good news is on the way.

”I hope Johnson & Johnson can figure out how to keep the doses coming,” he says. “We would like to keep doing what we’re doing in the community.”

The mix up does not affect the Johnson and Johnson shots that are already out. So if you are going to get the Johnson and Johnson shot soon the company says it is safe.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the wasted doses mishap. Preliminary investigations show this was all human error. Johnson & Johnson does not know when shipments will start again but the company says it will be able to deliver 24 million doses by the end of April.

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