About 15 million Johnson & Johnson doses ruined due to a mix-up at a plant in Maryland, the New York Times reports.

About 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine have been ruined due to a mix-up at a United States production facility, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, delaying future shipments.

Workers at the plant in Baltimore, Maryland, run by Emergent BioSolutions, “conflated” ingredients of the vaccine, the US newspaper reported. Federal officials attributed the mistake to “human error”.

The Times said the problem would not affect doses already being delivered across the US, but would cause delays for tens of millions of doses of the vaccine that were meant to come from the Baltimore plant in the coming months.

It did not say how long those delays could be.

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been credited with helping to speed up the US vaccine drive, which has ramped up since President Joe Biden came into office in January.

Vials with a sticker reading, “COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only” and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Johnson & Johnson logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020 [File: Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters]

The US has administered over 150.2 million vaccines and more than 54 million people were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, according to Centers Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Nearly 200 million doses have been delivered nationwide.

Federal officials still expect to meet Biden’s goal of having enough vaccines to jab every US adult by May despite the Johnson & Johnson delay, the New York Times reported.

The company has said it will attempt to exercise more control over the plant, which also produces doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the newspaper said.

The US – which has recorded over 30 million COVID-19 cases and more than 551,000 coronavirus-related deaths to date, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally – is seeing a new wave of coronavirus infections.

CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky, who earlier this week said she felt “impending doom” amid the rising case numbers, said on Wednesday that COVID-19 had pushed deaths in the US beyond 3.3 million last year – 16 percent higher than in 2019.

President Joe Biden speaks as he tours a Pfizer manufacturing plant producing the COVID-19 vaccine in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on February 19, 2021 [File: Tom Brenner/Reuters]

“The data should serve again as a catalyst for each of us to continue to do our part to drive down cases and reduce the spread of COVID-19 and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” she said during a news briefing.

The coronavirus hit communities of colour particularly hard, Walensky said, with the life expectancy for non-Hispanic Black people dropping by 2.7 years. It also decreased by 1.9 years for Hispanic people.

“Sadly, based on the current state of the pandemic, these impacts have remained in 2021 where we continue to see that communities of color account for an outsize portions of these deaths,” she said.

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