Vaccine effort surges ahead, despite J&J setback
Tuesday brought with it a mixed bag of news regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
The state’s directive that providers pause all administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine following reports of blood clots was issued just hours before positive news was shared about inoculations in Caldwell County, where more than 15,000 people have been vaccinated, according to a recent report shared on Tuesday by the Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management.
The pause was recommended by the Food and Drug administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention following reports of blood clots in six individuals six to 13 days after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In the meantime, Caldwell County residents will continue to have access to vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer, which each require an individual to receive two doses to be fully effective.
None of the cases of blood clots reported at this time have occurred in Texas, where more than 500,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered.
“My hope is that we get back usage of it because we can vaccinate people twice as quickly when we don’t have to worry about giving them a second dose,” Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden said. “It’s frustrating and disappointing, but we will do what the state says we need to do to keep people safe.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement released Tuesday that the reports of clotting appeared to be “extremely rare and are being further evaluated to ensure vaccine safety.”
I don’t know how long the hold will be,” said Haden, who noted that he was among the recipients of the Johnson & Johnson shot. “We have given a few Johnson & Johnson vaccines and I haven’t heard of anyone in our county having any adverse effects. No blood clots that I’m aware of.”
People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.
Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement about the state following the recommendation to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“The state of Texas is working in tandem with the federal government and vaccine providers to temporarily pause all administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Abbott said. “While no cases of blood clots have been reported in Texas, we are taking the reports of rare adverse effects seriously and are working to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines administered in our state continue to be safe and effective.
“I urge Texans who do experience adverse reactions, such as severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccination, to contact their health care providers or call 2-1-1 to receive a referral for a health care provider.
“Vaccines are a crucial tool to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and remain the most effective way to combat the virus in our communities. I continue to encourage Texans who wish to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to sign up.”
DSHS has not been notified of any change in vaccine distribution. Providers that have or receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should continue to store it in the proper conditions. Providers should report all adverse events following any vaccination to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System at vaers.hhs.gov.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Caldwell County Commissioners Court, County EMC Chief Hector Rangel said at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (by all drug manufacturers) had been administered to 15,575 individuals. People considered fully vaccinated — having had both doses, in the case of Moderna and Pfizer, or one dose, in the case of Johnson & Johnson — total 6,538.
That number should continue to rise. Haden said the county had been sending between 1,200-1,500 people from the county’s sign-up queue to the drive-thru COTA site each weekend, with a set of people scheduled to receive their second doses this coming weekend.
While the vaccine has also been administered at Lockhart retailers, doctor’s offices and at Lockhart ISD’s Adams Gym, the rate of inoculations could increase later this month when Curative, a commercial vendor, begins giving vaccinations to any individual over age 16 who wants one.
Curative has a target start date of April 29 in Lockhart.
“That’s going to be 1,500 doses a week through them,” Haden said. “Encourage everyone to get the word out to get on our county sign up list. That’s where we will be pulling from to get people in the queue.”
Local opportunities to receive a vaccine can only be accessed through the link to the local portal on co.caldwell.tx.us.
The state also has a sign-up portal at getthevaccine.dshs.texas.gov, although signing up only there will not put you in line for some opportunities available locally.