Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan declined an initial allocation of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine this week even as nationwide demand continues to outpace available supply.
On Friday, his office and the White House are trying to limit the repercussions of that decision.
Duggan, a Democrat who has been mayor since 2014, said he turned down the shipment because the city is able to meet current demand with its supply of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines — even as his administration expanded vaccine eligibility Thursday to residents ages 50 and older with chronic medical conditions.
“So, Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best. And I am going to do everything I can to make sure the residents of the city of Detroit get the best,” Duggan said during a news conference Thursday.
On Friday, White House officials were pressed on the mayor’s comments during a press briefing.
They tried to clarify what Duggan said, claiming the mayor is “very eager for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” according to White House senior adviser on Covid-19, Andy Slavitt.
“The mayor’s office has indicated, after we talked to them, that there was a misunderstanding, that was not the intent of those remarks,” Slavitt said.
Duggan’s office also released a statement Friday.
“I have full confidence that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is both safe and effective,” Duggan said in the statement. “We are making plans now for Johnson & Johnson to be a key part of our expansion of vaccine centers and are looking forward to receiving Johnson & Johnson vaccines in the next allocation.”
The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday approved emergency use authorization for the one-dose J&J vaccine, which was found to be 72% effective in the US against moderate to severe/critical Covid-19 cases. Clinical trials showed the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were about 95% effective.
All three vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness from Covid-19, and health officials have urged people to take any Covid-19 vaccine they are offered.
“The day may come in March or April when every single Moderna and Pfizer is committed, and we still have people who need a vaccine. And at that point we will set up a Johnson & Johnson center. I don’t see that in the next couple of weeks,” Duggan said.
Detroit received 29,000 total vaccine doses manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna this week, the mayor said. He said he expects roughly the same amount next week, and repeatedly said there is enough supply to meet current demand. He urged all qualified residents to make appointments.
Detroit’s mass vaccination drive-thru site at the TCF Center is able to “max-out” at 5,000 cars per weekday, Duggan explained, adding that health officials will administer the remaining 4,000 doses between “Senior Saturday” vaccination events and health department outreach this week.
Detroit received 6,200 doses of the J&J vaccine, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“The Johnson and Johnson doses not used by Detroit were provided to other health departments that had lower coverage rates for those age 65 years or older,” spokesman Bob Wheaton said in a statement to CNN.
The J&J vaccine doses “were allocated on top of the Moderna and Pfizer distribution,” Wheaton said, adding that Detroit did not receive additional Moderna or Pfizer supply to replace the 6,200 forgone J&J doses.
“All immunizing providers who can manage vaccine storage and management for a vaccine are expected to accept vaccine,” he said.
Detroit providers have administered 101,636 total Covid-19 vaccine doses, with 55,121 future doses already scheduled, according to the city’s Covid-19 dashboard.
A spokesman for Duggan did not immediately respond to CNN’s follow-up questions on whether the city will accept the J&J vaccine moving forward.
CNN has also reached out to the Biden administration for comment.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday said the state is easing some coronavirus-related restrictions, including restaurant capacities. She cited lower cases counts and the increased availability of vaccines.
Whitmer also noted the J&J vaccine is manufactured in Grand Rapids, Michigan.