Detroit mayor declines Johnson & Johnson vaccine shipment

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D) is defending his decision to reject a shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, saying in a press conference Thursday that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are better and he wants Detroit residents to "get the best."

Duggan had turned down 6,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which last weekend became the third approved for emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The mayor said that this week the city received 29,000 of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna inoculations, which he said was enough to vaccinate every resident who is so far eligible to receive the vaccine and wanted one. 

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According to the city’s health department, residents ages 50 and older with an underlying medical condition, manufacturing employees, school employees and others identified in high-priority groups are currently eligible for a coronavirus vaccination. 

So, Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best,” Duggan said Thursday. “And I am going to do everything I can to make sure the residents of the city of Detroit get the best.” 

Clinical trials of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines showed them to be about 95 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 after two doses administered weeks apart.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which only requires one dose, was found to be approximately 72 percent effective.  

“At this point, everybody in the city of Detroit who is eligible, who wants a vaccine can get one,” Duggan said. “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.” 

The mayor added, though, that he does not see that scenario happening “in the next couple of weeks.” 

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Public health experts have repeatedly promoted the safety and efficacy of each of the FDA-approved vaccines, encouraging people to receive whichever one is available to them. 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Bob Wheaton said in a statement to CNN Friday that the 6,000-plus Johnson & Johnson doses not used by Detroit have been “provided to other health departments that had lower coverage rates for those age 65 years or older.” 

According to Detroit’s COVID-19 dashboard, more than 101,000 coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in the city thus far, with more than 55,000 future doses already scheduled.