Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is halting the use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, but the county health officer said that should not affect the county’s vaccination process.
But those who had scheduled appointments to receive the J&J vaccine this week are being advised to reschedule their appointments to receive either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine after the J&J clincs were canceled.
Initially, the county said the Moderna vaccine would be substituted for the J&J vaccine at those clinics, but County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said the clinics had to be canceled because of a logistics problem.
“We were just notified at 6 a.m. this morning and had to cancel a couple of clinics,” Ansorg said Tuesday afternoon, adding the county has administered about 12,500 doses of the J&J vaccine and has around 4,000 more it planned to provide at clinics this week.
“But, obviously, that’s not going to happen because of the national pause [in administering the J&J vaccine],” he added.
So far, Santa Barbara County has administered a total of about 256,000 doses of all three vaccines, with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine accounting for only about 5% of that total.
Given that small a percentage, Ansorg doesn’t expect the inability to use the J&J vaccine to have much impact on the county’s vaccination effort.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department also halted the use of the J&J vaccine Tuesday, said Michelle Shoresman, public information officer for that county.
She said about 2,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered at SLO County’s mass vaccination clinics.
Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised agencies, hospitals and clinics to halt J&J vaccinations while they investigate six cases involving a rare blood clot, none of which occurred in California.
Although more than 6.85 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered nationwide, six people between the ages of 18 and 48 developed a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis approximately six to 13 days after receiving the vaccine, Shoresman said.
“That’s less than one in a million, but that’s still concerning,” Ansorg said.
He said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is good for about six months if properly refrigerated, so the county can still use its remaining doses if the FDA and CDC give the OK to use it again within that time.
Ansorg said the county is advising those who made an appointment for the one-dose J&J vaccine to reschedule their appointments to receive the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine rather than wait for the J&J vaccine.
“The sooner people get vaccinated the better for them individually as well as for the community,” he said. “By the middle of June, we want to be beyond the tier system and we want people to be vaccinated so we can fully open up [the economy].
“People who have had COVID will have some immunity,” he added. “But the best immunity is through the vaccine. It’s more robust and protects against all the variants.
“We anticipate about 60% of the people who are eligible to be vaccinated will want it, so we have to persuade another 15% to reach 75%.”
That number combined with those who have contracted the disease would bring the county to the 85% to 90% needed for herd immunity.
Photos: Santa Barbara County school employees get vaccines at Lompoc Valley Medical Center
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“I’m an optimist,” Ansorg said. “I think we will have vaccinated everyone who wants the vaccine by the end of April.”