Drugstores and grocers have played a crucial role in administering Covid-19 vaccines to Americans. Now, they are trying to figure out a path forward after the Food and Drug Administration asked states on Tuesday morning to temporarily halt distribution.
CVS Health said it has paused administration of all Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines at its stores. Company spokesman Mike DeAngelis said affected customers will receive an email to notify them that their scheduled appointments are canceled. He said it will follow up with those customers to reschedule, as it continues to offer shots developed by other manufacturers.
Walgreens said in a statement that it was suspending J&J vaccines at its stores and offsite clinics, too. It said it would reach out to people with appointments and reschedule them with another shot, as supply allows.
Wegmans said in a statement on its website that it has canceled all J&J vaccine appointments.
Retailers began sharing their responses on Tuesday, after the FDA’s request. The federal agency said it made the move “out of an abundance of caution” after six women in the U.S. developed a rare blood-clotting disorder. Nearly 7 million Americans have received the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
J&J’s vaccine has not been as widely distributed as Pfizer–BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. However, the shots come with unique benefits. They can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for months and take only one shot — unlike Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, which require freezers and two rounds of shots spaced about a month apart. That has made J&J’s vaccine an appealing option, particularly for harder-to-reach populations, such as Americans who are homebound, live in poorer communities, rural areas or tribal lands.
It is unclear how much of drugstores’ and grocery stores’ vaccine supply is from J&J versus other manufacturers — and what portion of their vaccine appointments the FDA request could disrupt.
CVS is offering Covid vaccines in about 2,000 stores across 49 states. DeAngelis declined to say how many of those stores use the J&J vaccine and how many administer the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Some states, including New York, have announced they will use Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine in J&J’s place for already scheduled appointments.