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Johnson & Johnson vaccine returns; Texas shifting from hubs to smaller providers

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s return to use with government approval comes as the state of Texas is seeing a decrease in vaccination demand by residents and is shifting from large hubs to smaller providers. 

“It seems we’re getting to the point that most people eager to get vaccinated have got (at least) their first dose, so the next phase will be about helping ensure the vaccine is more easily available to those folks who are not going to go as far out of their way,” said Imelda Garcia, associate commissioner of the Texas State Department of Health Services and chair of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. 

She made the statement during the state’s COVID-19 vaccine update April 22. 

Garcia also pointed out that Texas has experienced a reduction in vaccine requests from mass hubs, so it will continue to shift allocation to smaller providers such as doctor offices and pharmacies.

Since vaccinations started in mid-December, about 7 million eligible Texans have been fully vaccinated. Of residents ages 65 and older, six in 10 are fully vaccinated, according to the DSHS. Texans ages 16 and older are eligible to be vaccinated. However, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for ages 18 and older.

On April 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following a safety review. The pause followed reports of rare and potentially fatal blood clots in six women that occurred within two weeks of them receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The number was later increased to 15 following further review of data.

According to the CDC, more than 6.8 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been administered by April 13, when it was paused. All of the cases were women between the ages of 18 and 59 with a median age of 37. The symptoms began showing up six to 15 days after the women were vaccinated. 

Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine outweigh “its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older.”

The two federal agencies also provided fact sheets on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for healthcare providers administering it and recipients and caregivers.

In Texas, vaccine allocations for the week of April 26 include the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines but no Johnson & Johnson doses. Some providers might still have Johnson & Johnson doses on hand from before the pause.

More than 700,000 first doses are among this week’s allocation. The DSHS also ordered approximately 570,000 second doses. Another 470,000 first and second doses are expected to be delivered to federal partnering pharmacies and health centers. 

In the Highland Lakes, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls is receiving 1,170 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, while Corner Health Mart and Hill Country Direct Care, both in Llano, are each getting 100 first doses of Moderna.

Hill Country Direct Care is offering vaccinations Tuesday-Friday, April 27-30. Registration is online through the Llano County COVID-19 webpage

daniel@thepicayune.com

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