Massachusetts is expecting a shipment of about 4,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine just days after the federal government allowed the single-dose shot to be given again.
Another 6,000 doses are in reserve and ready for use, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday, as vaccine providers get the green light to use what's left in their inventory. The single-dose shots are primarily used by community health centers and mobile clinics attempting to reach homebound populations in Massachusetts. That will likely continue, according to Baker.
"I do think we will continue to make J&J available, especially to reach some of those harder-to-reach populations where the ease of use and the single-dose can make a big difference," Baker said during a Monday press briefing.
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An 11-day nationwide pause on the administering of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine was lifted by the FDA and the CDC at the end of last week, and Massachusetts resumed administering the company's doses at state-run clinics on Friday. But now it comes with a warning.
Reports surfaced in the U.S. of rare blood clots in several people, all women. Fifteen vaccine recipients out of 8 million given the J&J shot have been identified by the government as developing the unusual clotting.
Federal health officials say about a dozen recipients developed blood clots. All were women mostly under 50 years old, and three of them died. There has still been no direct link found between the vaccine and the clotting issue.
"I think the I think the Federal Government, the CDC and the FDA pursued what most experts would call a cautious approach on this," Baker said. "They paused it, we all paused it. They did a fair amount of work to determine both, you know the nature of the incidents that occurred, what happened as a result, whether or not they had all the cases that existed around the country. And then based on that, determined that the benefit of the vaccine was overwhelmingly positive."
Baker emphasized that, of the 3.5 million people in Massachusetts who have gotten one dose and the 2.3 million people who are fully vaccinated, the vast majority overwhelmingly received vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
"J&J has played a very small role here," Baker said, "but its ability because of the fact you don't need the deep-freeze, it's easier to prepare, you don't have to worry so much about spoilage and lost vaccine, they're very effective at helping with outreach programs."
At a walk-in clinic in Newton Sunday, some people were relieved to get the shot while others were disappointed it was the only option. Pharmacy intern Anthony Petrillo described a specific encounter with a woman who wasn't excited by the news.
“She was hesitant because of the blood clotting issue,” explained Petrillo, who was administering the shots. “They’re saying they’re not comfortable and they’d rather (have the) Moderna or Pfizer.”
“For me, it took a long time to be here, I’ve read and researched a lot,” explained Weston native Nathalie O’Sullivan. “So, I got to the point I was comfortable once it got back on the market.”
Meanwhile, CVS is slated to make appointments for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine available this week in Massachusetts.