CVS stops giving J&J Covid vaccines in pharmacies, still offers shots at some MinuteClinics

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A nurse administers a shot at the FEMA-supported COVID-19 vaccination site at Valencia State College on the first day the site resumed offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Paul Hennessy | LightRocket | Getty Images

CVS Health has stopped offering Johnson & Johnson‘s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine in its pharmacies, now only making the shots available in roughly 10% of its retail locations, the company told CNBC on Wednesday.

The drugstore chain said it made the change over the past several weeks. It said customers can still get the shots at almost 1,000 MinuteClinic locations in 25 states and Washington D.C. MinuteClinics are inside of some of the company’s drugstores and provide non-emergency medical care and other services, such as diagnostic tests and vaccines.

CVS pharmacies will continue to offer the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid vaccines nationwide, according to CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis. He declined to say how many pharmacies were impacted by the change but said it would help with the drugstore chain’s vaccine supply.

CVS has more than 9,900 retail locations, according to its 2020 annual report.

J&J did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the change.

J&J’s vaccine was touted by federal health officials as a blessing when it was authorized by the FDA in late February because it requires just one dose and can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for months. It has since suffered from poor perceptions from the public about its overall effectiveness, concerns about rare side effects as well as production delays.

For some Americans, concerns about the one-shot vaccine have intensified with the rise of the delta variant, which spreads more easily and may cause more severe disease than the original coronavirus. Some people have gone as far as seeking out a supplemental dose, which is not yet recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This week, San Francisco health officials said they are allowing patients who received J&J vaccine to get a second shot produced by either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

The change by CVS will impact the availability of the shots for many Americans. J&J’s vaccine already hasn’t seen as robust uptake in the U.S. as the mRNA vaccines have.

About 13.5 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S. as of Tuesday, according to data compiled by the CDC. That compares with a combined 333.6 million doses for Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine.

Dr. Paul Offit, who has served on advisory panels for both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, said J&J’s vaccine really “suffered” after federal health officials in April asked states to temporarily halt using the shot “out of an abundance of caution” while it investigated six women who developed a rare, but serious, blood-clotting disorder, said

The recommended pause was lifted 10 days later after U.S. officials determined that the benefits of the inoculations outweighed their risks.

“I think the public hears that the vaccine is taken off the market for a period of time and it is just hard to get past that scarlet letter,” said Offit, also director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The company and U.S. health officials have maintained that the one-dose vaccine is safe and highly effective, especially against severe disease, hospitalizations and death. J&J reported last month that new research found its vaccine was effective against the highly contagious delta, even eight months after inoculation.

–CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this report.

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