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May 17, 2021

Johnson & Johnson pause not expected to slow county’s vaccine efforts

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Though the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be delayed for an undetermined amount of time, the pause of the single-dose inoculation is not expected to significantly slow the county’s vaccination efforts.

That’s according to Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin, who said Tuesday that only about 3,600 doses of that vaccine has been distributed to the County Health Services Agency (HSA). That vaccine, Hoppin said, has been primarily used for incarcerated individuals and people experiencing homelessness.

The Homeless Persons Health Project (HPHP), which has spearheaded the county’s vaccine efforts for those experiencing homelessness, made the switch to the Moderna vaccine today. Hoppin said that the shift might cause some operational challenges because of the vaccine’s two-dose administration, but that HPHP leaders were not too worried about the change.

“I talked to them this morning, and for those two-shot doses they’ve had pretty good success in getting people fully vaccinated,” Hoppin said. 

Despite the pause, Hoppin said, HPHP clients are still asking for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The use of the vaccine halted Tuesday morning after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended a “pause” while it investigated rare side effects possibly associated with the shot.

Six cases of severe blood clots have been reported by Americans who have recently taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to a joint statement from the FDA and Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. More than 6.8 million doses of that vaccine have been administered nationwide.

“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” the statement read.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was scheduled to meet Wednesday and update its recommendation for the vaccine’s use.

Santa Cruz County has administered more than 194,000 vaccines, according to state data available Tuesday.

Hoppin said HSA this week would receive 3,800 doses, and that only 300 of them would be of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

It is still not yet known what effect the pause will have on other distribution methods that have used Johnson & Johnson, primarily the participants of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program such as CVS and Walgreens.

A statement from the White House said that the pause, “will not have a significant impact on our vaccination plan.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the statement, makes up less than 5% of the doses administered in the U.S. to date.

“Over the last few weeks, we have made available more than 25 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna each week, and in fact this week we will make available 28 million doses of these vaccines,” the statement read. “This is more than enough supply to continue the current pace of vaccinations of 3 million shots per day, and meet the President’s goal of 200 million shots by his 100th day in office.”

Vaccine appointments for Santa Cruz County residents were still aplenty through the state-run My Turn website, myturn.ca.gov, as of 5pm Tuesday. 

The mass vaccine site in downtown Watsonville had multiple openings Thursday through Sunday for those currently eligible. And Dignity Health-Dominican Hospital’s site at Branciforte Middle School in Santa Cruz also had several appointments available for Thursday.

But those appointments are expected to fill up quickly when eligibility expands to all Californians 16 and older on Thursday, Hoppin said.

“It does seem easier to find a shot now,” Hoppin said. “Now, what happens on Thursday is probably a different question—that’s a pretty big expansion of the eligibility pool. What’s available now, may not be available then.”

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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