Va. vaccine chief: Next week’s J&J COVID-19 vaccine ‘about a tenth of what we were hoping for’

The coordinator of Virginia’s vaccination program said Friday that the commonwealth’s allocation of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine would take a hard hit next week.

Dr. Danny Avula said in his weekly briefing that next week’s allocation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be about 14,800 for the state and local health departments and about 13,100 for Virginia pharmacies taking part in the federal partnership. That’s down from 124,000 and 150,000, respectively.

“It’s about a tenth of what we were hoping for,” Avula said.

The commonwealth’s allocation of first doses of the two-dose vaccines will stay fairly steady, Avula said: about 117,000 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and about 86,000 first doses of the Moderna. The federal government has told Avula those are “the plateau number” for the foreseeable future.

Combining the numbers leads to about a 33% overall drop in first doses and Johnson & Johnson doses.

Maryland’s allotments of vaccines have also taken a tumble in the wake of a mistake at Johnson & Johnson’s laboratory, which led to the trashing of 15 million doses of its vaccine.

Avula said the state is still confident that the goal of heading into Phase 2 — throwing open vaccination appointments to the public — by April 18 is within reach.

“It doesn’t change the pace” for Phase 2, he said, “but it does slow the pace of our progressions once we’ve opened up to Phase 2.”

Moving to Phase 2 “doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get vaccinated in 12 hours,” Avula said. “It doesn’t even mean you’ll be able to get an appointment within 24 hours.”

Still, he said his department is “really confident” it will reach the overarching goal of at least a first dose for every adult Virginian who wants it by the end of May.

The main problem he saw was with the colleges and universities that had vaccination programs planned for their students who will be leaving campus soon. They’ll “have to push that back by a week or so,” Avula said, though institutions coming up hard against the date of the last day of classes will be prioritized for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that the state does have.

That’s important, he added, not so much because young adults are likely to get bad outcomes from COVID-19, but because they are prime drivers of community spread.

To register for a vaccination in Virginia, go to vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-INVA.

The plan is that Johnson & Johnson will be back to making 8 million doses a week, Avula said. “We’re just hopeful that by the end of April they’ll pick back up.”

Avula added that he’d seen good preliminary results in vaccine trials for kids, and forecasted FDA approval in September, possibly in time for the start of school.

Hesitancy

Avula returned to a common theme – that at a certain point, his department’s main job will switch from getting enough vaccine out to everyone who wants it to encouraging hesitant people to take it, especially in rural counties. Appealing to elected officials and faith leaders should help close the gap, he said.

He said that, once the state’s priority populations are set up with appointments, such tools as walk-up clinics and FEMA mobile sites will be helpful for people who aren’t able to register themselves.

By the end of May or early June, Avula forecasted, more vaccines would be sent to private providers, because doctors and nurses have “tremendous influence over vaccine-hesitant patients.”

Avula added that while the website vaccinefinder.org — which helps people find appointments within a given radius of their address – currently only shows appointments for pharmacies and other clinics, after April 18 it will include state and local health districts.


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.


Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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