New Johnson & Johnson expected in Missouri, Arkansas by end of week

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 6:44 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Approved for use over the weekend, the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine started rolling out of a distribution center in suburban Louisville on Monday.

“This week we’ll distribute 3.9 million doses,” said Jeff Zients, the nation’s COVID-19 Response Coordinator. “That is the entirety of Johnson & Johnson’s current inventory.”

The hope though is to have 20 million doses shipped out by the end of March.

Conversations with Mercy, CoxHealth and Jordan Valley Community Health Center on Monday found that all those Springfield-area health care providers are still waiting to find out if-and-when they’ll receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Meanwhile a check with the state health departments found that Missouri is expecting 55,000 doses as early as Wednesday while Arkansas has ordered 24,400 doses that they hope to arrive by the end of the week.

Johnson & Johnson joins two other vaccines already available in Pfizer and Moderna, but the new vaccine is being called a game-changer by some observers because it will help speed up the vaccination process.

Not only will there be more vaccine by adding the third source, but the J&J vaccine can be stored at regular refrigeration levels (Pfizer and Moderna require colder storage) and requires just a single shot (Pfizer and Moderna both require a follow-up booster shot).

“We will be able to vaccinate more people quicker,” said Dr. William Sistrunk, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Mercy. “It’s a single shot and so people are covered more rapidly than the Moderna and Pfizer which requires really two weeks after the second vaccine to be fully-covered.”

“Single dose vaccine is going to be much more important for certain populations where follow-ups are going to be hard,” added Dr. Robin Trotman, an Infectious Disease Specialist at CoxHealth. “Homeless populations or migrant populations. There are regions of the country where that’s a real issue where you don’t get a second chance to find somebody. As for the storage issues, it’s certainly going to simplify rolling this out to those rural areas where you don’t have those same storage capacities.”

Keep in mind that every vaccine has its positives and negatives, and you may have heard that the J&J vaccine has a lower rate of effectiveness at 72 percent than the 95 and 94 percent levels of Pfizer and Moderna. But the new vaccine has shown to be very effective against new variants and is 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

“I mean the key outcome of the Johnson & Johnson study was that nobody died,” Trotman said. “That’s a big deal.”

And it’s also a big deal because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one more weapon in the intense arms race between the mutating virus and our immune systems.

“We know that viruses mutant naturally,” said Dr. Nancy Yoon, the Chief Medical Officer with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. “That’s part of what they do. So the more that the virus is there and spreading among people the more it will mutate and develop some more of these variants. We don’t have a high level of herd immunity so we need to continue to be vigilant knowing that the cases could turn around quickly and go in the wrong direction again.”

“It really is a race to get more people vaccinated before we see these variants really take a foothold,” added Sistrunk. “The more contagious variants will become predominate within the U.S. and Missouri within the next several months so the more people we can get vaccinated the better we can prevent illness. I’m very concerned that in the next few months leading into the summer that we’ll have a higher number of cases.”

All three of the officials we talked to for this story also shared one common theme.

“The message is get whatever vaccine is available to you as soon as possible,” Yoon said.

“The vaccines are in such short supply right now really across the country that I would get the vaccine that’s available to you,” Sistrunk agreed.

“Get in line and get what you can get,” Trotman said. “People shouldn’t wait. It’s really about scarcity and getting immunity in our population as soon as possible.”

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