The White House sought Monday to tamp down fears that the newly authorized coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is not as useful as two earlier ones and could be steered mainly to hard-to-reach communities.
At a briefing by the White House’s coronavirus-19 response team, officials talked up evidence that the vaccine authorized for emergency use over the weekend is effective at blocking severe cases of illness from the virus as well as deaths, even if clinical trials have suggested it is somewhat less protective against moderate cases.
And officials countered an emerging public perception that the vaccine, with its simpler storage and handling requirements, could be targeted to mobile clinics and other vaccination sites in underserved communities. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the Biden administration’s coronavirus equity task force, said the government will allocate the J & J vaccine in direct proportion to the population size of states, tribes and other jurisdictions — the same allocation method used for the vaccines developed by Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech and by Moderna.
“All vaccines will reach all communities,” Nunez-Smith said, though she acknowledged that not every vaccination site within a given community will have each vaccine.
Pressed on what federal officials will do to ensure communities distribute the three vaccines equitably, beyond monitoring where supplies go, Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said, “we will take action to ensure supply is distributed evenly.” He said that will include communicating federal expectation and if necessary providing technical assistance to state and local health officials. He did not elaborate on the nature of that assistance.
Nunez-Smith said the government would “intervene and correct,” if warranted.
At Monday’s briefing, Zients also acknowledged flaws in registration systems in many parts of the country that are leaving vaccine-seekers frustrated and without appointments. “Scheduling remains for far too many people too frustrating, and we need to make it better,” he said, adding that federal officials are working with states, in ways he did not specify, to make sure “the systems can handle not only the current demand but future demand.”