PLATTSBURGH — As the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine makes its way to the North Country, local health departments plan to first use it to immunize homebound residents.
Clinton County Health Department Senior Public Health Educator Molly Flynn said her agency is part of a two-phase proposal developed at the North Country vaccine hub to utilize the one-shot regimen, which received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month, for this purpose.
"It is currently being piloted in Phase 1 by local health departments who have homecare agencies," Flynn added.
Essex County Health Department submitted a proposal to the state requesting 100 doses of the Johnson & Johnson, also known as the Janssen, vaccine, which were received, Program Coordinator Andrea Whitmarsh said. The agency plans to continue to request more allocations each week.
Whitmarsh noted ECHD has a Certified Home Health Agency under its umbrella, putting it in a unique position that "allows us to more readily identify homebound residents and their eligible caregivers/household members and utilize our existing nursing staff to administer vaccine to this more vulnerable population."
Sarah Granquist, a public health educator at Franklin County Public Health, said her agency has requested and received 200 doses.
"We will focus on the homebound and also open up some doses to other eligible categories."
Flynn said one benefit in utilizing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it will be easier to transport than the Moderna doses, which are what CCHD currently uses.
Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines require cold chain storage. By contrast, the Johnson and Johnson injection can be stored for up to three months in a regular refrigerator.
"It is likely we may try to utilize any (Johnson & Johnson) for (points of distribution) in outlying areas" of the county, Flynn said.
CCHD Director of Public Health John Kanoza indicated this during the county legislature's Wednesday meeting.
In addition to discussions with HCR Home Care to distribute the Johnson & Johnson shot to 200 homebound clientele, Kanoza noted bringing batches of the doses to volunteer fire departments and emergency services buildings in rural areas like Keeseville, Saranac, Ellenburg and Champlain.
"If we’ve got to haul out, and get outside of our working area here in the City and Town of Plattsburgh, it’s best if we do it with Johnson & Johnson," he said.
Flynn anticipates that Moderna will constitute the majority of CCHD's allocation for the foreseeable future.
"As more vaccine is available, we will be prepared to administer whatever type of vaccine we are given."
Among those seeking vaccination, the consensus seems to be that any opportunity to be vaccinated is better than waiting, Whitmarsh said, noting that some prefer the Johnson & Johnson candidate for its one-shot regimen.
"We realize there are individuals who crave more information and data about vaccine performance before they make a decision, and we are working hard to address these needs and communicate vaccine information to those that might be hesitant or concerned."
Whitmarsh said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does well with the most important benchmark: keeping people from getting hospitalized and dying.
"It's about 85 percent effective against severe to critical forms of the disease, which is comparable to both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines," she continued.
"While it is about 66 percent protective against moderate disease, it's important to note that this vaccine was trialed in Latin America and South Africa, regions where variants of SARS-CoV-2 are circulating, and it proved to be similarly effective against those variants as well."
Flynn likewise spoke to both the safety and efficacy of all three vaccine candidates had been demonstrated.
"No matter which type of vaccine you receive, the important piece is getting the vaccine," she said.
"We suggest everyone schedule their vaccination as soon as they become eligible, whether that be through CCHD, at the New York State site on the base or at a pharmacy or health care center."
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