White House says Detroit mayor is ‘eager’ for J&J vaccine after declining allocation

The White House has claimed the Detroit mayor was “eager” to receive the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine after he publicly declined the city’s initial allocation.

Andy Slavitt, President Joe Biden’s top coronavirus adviser, said during a White House Covid press briefing on Friday that it was not the “intent” of Mayor Mike Duggan to decline the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for his city’s residents.

“That was not actually the mayor’s intent … In fact he is very eager for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Mr Slavitt said when answering a report question about the situation.

But the statement differed from what Mr Duggan has previously said regarding the new Covid-19 vaccine, which recently received emergency use authorisation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During a press conference on Thursday, Mr Duggan said that his administration turned down a shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses because the city was currently able to vaccinate those eligible with what it received from Pfizer and Moderna. This despite the city recently allowing for those 50 years and older with a chronic condition to make a vaccine appointment.

“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,” Mr 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 centre. I don’t see that in the next couple of weeks,” the mayor added.

The Johnson & Johnsons vaccine received emergency use authorisation from the FDA on Saturday after it was found to be 72 per cent effective against preventing severe disease from Covid-19, according to data obtained from its clinical trials.

Although the vaccine had a lower efficacy compared to Pfizer and Moderna, health experts have celebrated the impact this new vaccine will have as the country works to vaccinate all Americans.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said on Sunday that he would take the new vaccine if he was not already fully vaccinated with another option.

“In order to really compare vaccines, you have to compare them head-to-head. These were not compared head-to-head,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday. “The message that needs to prevail, Dana, is that there are three highly efficacious vaccines.

“I can tell you I have been fully vaccinated with one that was available, it was the Moderna. If I were not vaccinated now, and I had a choice of getting the J&J vaccine now or waiting for another vaccine, I would take whatever vaccine would be available to me as quickly as possible.

“We want to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.” he concluded.

Detroit has received 29,000 vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna this week, and the mayor has since faced backlash from constituents for reportedly denying Johnson & Johnson doses.

A spokesperson with Johnson & Johnson told CNN that the unused vaccine doses allocated for Detroit were “provided to other health departments that had lower coverage rates for those age 65 years or older.”

The mayor’s office has not released a statement about the vaccine allocation, but the White House said it was in “constant communication” with the city on the matter.

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