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Northeast Ohio Providers Prepare to Distribute Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Johnson & Johnson vaccine
The FDA authorized the third COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the U.S. Feb. 27 from pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. This is the first one-dose vaccine to be distributed in the U.S.

Ohio providers are preparing to distribute more COVID-19 vaccines this week than ever.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the COVID-19 vaccine developed by pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson for emergency use authorization over the weekend, and 91,600 doses are headed to Ohio this week, Gov. Mike DeWine said in a press conference Monday. The state also is getting more shipments of vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna versions, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one dose, not two, and can be stored more easily, which makes for an easier distribution process, said Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

“It’s easier to handle, honestly,” Skoda said. “It does not have the severe temperature restriction, so we’re able to give it out and to do more with that vaccine.”

Health departments will receive small supplies of the new vaccines for the next couple of weeks, Skoda said. Summit County health officials will likely prioritize these shots for individuals who are homebound, or who may be difficult to reach, she said.

“Any time there is a group that you’re concerned about reaching out again for that second dose, maybe homeless encampments that move around, it’s better to give that one dose and have that high level of effectiveness,” Skoda said.

The health department does not yet know when to expect its shipments, Skoda said, but in the meantime, officials are getting a head start by reaching out to eligible Summit County residents who are not able to leave their homes.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66 percent effective overall in preventing COVID-19, a lower efficacy than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Skoda said. However, it showed 70 percent efficacy in its U.S. trials and was especially effective at preventing severe COVID cases, she added.

Still, health officials are concerned people may not want to receive the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson because its efficacy rate is lower than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Skoda said.

“When I’ve called people up and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a vaccine for you,’ the first thing they ask is ‘which one?’” she said. “We know it’s going to come up … We have to explain it to folks. We have to be able to tell people no, they’re all effective. They were all equally effective in preventing people from getting really sick.”

Patients will not be able to choose which vaccine they receive, she said.

A spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health told ideastream they do not yet have details about how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be incorporated into current distribution.

The Cuyahoga County health department continues to administer second doses to front-line health care workers and first responders, and recently opened up appointments for individuals over the age of 65 and those with certain underlying medical conditions.

In addition to local health departments, Johnson & Johnson shipments will go to hospitals and pharmacies throughout the state, DeWine said. This is the first time in Ohio’s vaccine rollout that independent pharmacies will have access to COVID-19 vaccines, he said.

The inclusion of more providers will further speed up the state’s vaccine distribution, Skoda said.

“The more [providers] that have it, the better off,” she said. “That way, people can have a choice as to where they want to go, and it can be somebody that they have a trusted relationship with.”

Ohio will receive around 448,000 doses of all three vaccines this week, Gov. DeWine said. The state also expanded its eligibility requirements to include more people who are at a higher risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19, such as pregnant women and individuals with Type I diabetes, as well as police officers, funeral services employees and child care workers.
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