Detroit mayor turned down J&J vaccine in favor of others

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Mike Duggan

FILE – In this April 23, 2020, file photo, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks in Detroit. Mayor Duggan this week turned down 6,200 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, with favoring shots from Pfizer and Moderna for now. “Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best,” he said Thursday, March 4, 2021. “And I am going to do everything I can to make sure that residents of the city of Detroit get the best.” (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Detroit this week turned down 6,200 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, with Mayor Mike Duggan favoring shots from Pfizer and Moderna for now.

“Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best,” he said Thursday. “And I am going to do everything I can to make sure that residents of the city of Detroit get the best.”

Duggan said the allotment of 29,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses “covered everyone who wanted a vaccination this week.” On Friday, he said the city will accept J&J vaccines in the state’s next allocation, calling them “a key part of our expansion of vaccine centers.”

Duggan’s initial comments conflicted with guidance from top state and federal health officials.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said earlier in the week that people who are offered the J&J vaccine should “take it because declining … could be the difference between life and death.” In a statement Friday, she cautioned against comparing the three vaccines — as the mayor did — because of differences in when and where each company conducted its studies, with the Pfizer and Moderna research finished before concerning variants began spreading.

In the U.S., the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were 95% protective against symptomatic COVID-19. J&J’s one-dose effectiveness of 85% against severe COVID-19 dropped to 66% when moderate cases were rolled in. The Food and Drug Administration has reported that, just like its predecessors, the J&J shot offers strong protection against the worst outcomes, hospitalization and death.

“All of the vaccines are safe and effective and I recommend that all vaccines be offered in all communities,” Khaldun said.

White House coronavirus special adviser Andy Slavitt said Friday that the White House talked to the Detroit mayor’s office, which called the situation a “misunderstanding.”

“In fact, he is very eager for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Slavitt said of Duggan.

As of Wednesday, 11% of Detroit residents age 16 and older had gotten at least one dose. The statewide rate was 19%.

Detroit this week expanded vaccinations to any resident who is a factory worker, no matter their age or where they work. Non-residents can also get a shot if they work in manufacturing in the city.

J&J’s vaccine is produced using a cell line derived from an aborted fetus, which has prompted moral concerns from Catholic leaders. The chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees on doctrine and abortion issues said the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are preferable “if one has the ability to choose a vaccine.”

A $4.2 billion COVID-19 relief plan approved by Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature this week includes a provision that would require vaccine recipients to be informed if and in what manner their vaccine was developed with aborted fetal tissue or human embryonic stem cells. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could declare the item unenforceable.

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Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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