KEY POINTS

  • Workers accidentally contaminated 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
  • The workers were from Emergent BioSolutions in Baltimore
  • Emergent also manufactures the COVID-19 vaccine for AstraZeneca

At least 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine were wasted due to human error, federal officials said Wednesday. 

Workers at a Baltimore plant run by Emergent BioSolutions accidentally mixed up doses of the J&J and the AstraZeneca vaccines several weeks ago. The plant is a manufacturing partner to both J&J and AstraZeneca. 

The mix-up went undiscovered for days before J&J's quality control team identified one batch that didn't meet Emergent BioSolutions' standards. J&J reported the incident to federal regulators, who then launched an investigation. 

Up to 15 million doses of the J&J vaccine were contaminated due to the error, forcing the FDA to delay authorization of the plant’s production lines. The incident also delayed future shipments of the J&J doses in the U.S. while authorities investigate. 

Over 24 million doses of the J&J vaccine expected to arrive throughout the U.S. next month were supposed to come from the Baltimore plant. The deliveries are now in question, people familiar with the matter told The New York Times

Officials say none of the contaminated doses left the plant, and the batch has been quarantined. The pharmaceutical company has since increased the number of its own staff members who monitor the production lines to prevent future lapses. 

In a statement from J&J late Wednesday, it said boosting its staff at the Baltimore plant would enable it to deliver 24 million doses of its vaccine by the end of April.

U.S. officials said the spoilage would not impact President Joe Biden’s plan of immunizing every American adult by May. They also said the error would not affect doses currently being used in the U.S. Those doses were produced by a plant in the Netherlands. 

Federal officials still expect there will be enough doses from J&J, Moderna, and Pfizer to meet Biden’s inoculation plan. 

Pfizer has shipped its vaccine doses ahead of schedule. And Moderna is currently requesting approval to deliver vials of its vaccine. Those vials would carry 15 doses instead of 10. 

Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine could give a boost to the company's brand, which has suffered amid litigation over talcum powder products and the marketing of opioids Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine could give a boost to the company's brand, which has suffered amid litigation over talcum powder products and the marketing of opioids Photo: AFP / Mark RALSTON