Johnson & Johnson quietly stopped production on its COVID-19 vaccine over the last couple of months, according to a Tuesday report from the New York Times.
What are the details?
The company, according to the report, shut down its sole plant responsible for manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccine in late 2021.
Johnson & Johnson instead has reportedly been using the facility to develop an experimental — but "potentially more profitable" — vaccine that has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, but the report did not elaborate on the purported project.
The stoppage is reportedly temporary, and the plant will allegedly resume COVID-19 vaccine production in the coming months.
A spokesperson for the company told Insider that the company currently maintains "millions" of COVID-19 vaccine doses in its storehouse and neither confirmed nor denied the allegations of the halt in production.
"Our manufacturing sites produce multiple products as we have an obligation to supply life changing medicines to patients around the world and bring forward our innovative pipeline of new medicines and vaccines," the spokesperson said. "We manage our production planning accordingly and are currently supplying from our extensive global network based on the demand for our vaccine and the needs of our patients and customers."
The move "blindsided" officials at two of the company's biggest customers — the African Union and Covax — and sparked concern, the Times said.
Dr. Ayoade Alakija, co-head of the African Union’s vaccine delivery program, told the outlet that this is "not the time" to be "switching production lines of anything" as lives of people the world over currently "hang in the balance."
Poorer countries are said to be heavily reliant on the vaccine, which does not require subzero storage temperatures.
“In many low- and middle-income countries, our vaccine is the most important and sometimes only option,” Dr. Penny Heaton, a Johnson & Johnson executive, said in December of the vaccine. “The world is depending on us.”
Dr. Seth Berkley at Covax said he is disappointed in the company's move.
“We really needed their doses in 2021, and we were counting on them,” Berkley said. “They didn’t deliver. So we had to find other doses to meet the countries’ needs.”