Johnson & Johnson vaccine contamination was more alarming than people imagined

johnson & johnson vaccine contamination
Photo via Maryland GovPics (CC BY 2.0)

House subcommittee testimony released on May 19, including new details from Emergent BioSolutions executives, provided concerning new details involving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine contamination involving millions of doses at a Baltimore plant.

As the Washington Post reported, “Johnson & Johnson documented serious contamination risks at a troubled Baltimore biodefense plant in June 2020, seven months before a contamination incident ruined 15 million doses of coronavirus vaccine and derailed Johnson & Johnson’s domestic vaccine production.”

The testimony, released by the House Oversight select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, brings up new concerns around “oversight by Johnson & Johnson as well as the Trump administration, which the newly released records show also knew of production risks at the Emergent BioSolutions facility.” The Baltimore biodefense plant was found to have “persistent problems with contamination, unsanitary conditions, mold, poor training and insufficient attention to procedures.”

The report also noted that though Emergent was being blamed, Johnson & Johnson also knew that there was a serious risk at the plant. In 2020, a virtual audit was conducted, and it found there was mold and inadequate safety measures.

“The site virus contamination control strategy is deficient,” the Johnson & Johnson audit report said. “There is not a formal Bayview contamination control strategy for the site.”

CNBC’s reporting on the story also pointed the finger at the Baltimore plant employees, noting that some didn’t shower or change clothes, both of which are a factory requirement.

Another key finding by the committee: “Even though inspectors found poor conditions at the plant, top executives were awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses last year and were praised by the company’s board for their leadership.”

Johnson & Johnson relied on Emergent as the sole domestic manufacturer of its COVID-19 vaccine, the New York Times reported. As a result of its problems, the federal government didn’t ship any Johnson & Johnson vaccines to states for the week beginning May 17.

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Sources: Washington Post, CNBC, New York Times

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