Montgomery Co. holds J&J vaccine in storage, awaiting word from feds

Officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, said the impact of the halt on Johnson & Johnson vaccines, amid reports of possible ties to blood clots, is expected to be lessened in the county by the presence of the other vaccines.

County Health Officer Travis Gayles said the timing of the pause helped, as the state was already expecting fewer doses of the J&J vaccine thanks to a mix up at a vaccine production plant in Baltimore that contaminated around 15 million doses.

“Even preceding this week’s announcement about the case review, the doses that were provided to us at the mass vax site as well as the local health department allocations were significantly and primarily Pfizer doses,” he said.

Gayles said the county will keep the doses of J&J vaccine it still has stored until they get further guidance from the federal government about how best to move forward with them.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccines are more easily stored compared to Pfizer and Moderna, which are both very susceptible to temperature fluctuations.

There are concerns the pause only adds to some people’s hesitancy to get the vaccine. This hesitancy has been present in every population in the country, but some minority communities may be more cautious when it comes to receiving the vaccine.

In the early months of the pandemic, the county created several outreach programs aimed at sharing information directly to Latin American, African American and Asian and Pacific Islander communities about the disease, testing and, later, vaccines.

These groups are currently working to spread information about the vaccine and advocate for members of those communities to sign up to receive their dose.

Betty Lam, who works with the Asian and Pacific Islander community, said members of those communities prefer to hear testimony from experts before making a decision.

“We oftentimes get the authoritative figures to do speaking engagements, town halls, webinars … if they look at physicians speaking about it … usually that’s the level of engagement that works,” Lam said.

Still, there is no one-size-fits all solution for any group, as each individual has their own reasons to be hesitant about the vaccine, according to Earl Stoddard, the director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

“Different people are motivated by different reasons for wanting to do something or not wanting to do something,” he said. “There’s really not going to be a single message that’s going to be effective for every person — there’s going to be nuances and differences between people even within different populations.”

Stoddard said that is why tailored outreach programs are so important: “One message does not solve all of the issues.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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