Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives in Virginia

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RICHMOND, Va. (WDVM) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that it will receive 69,000 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday or Thursday, with an additional 22,000 vaccines headed to pharmacies.

Once the new Johnson & Johnson vaccines make it to the Commonwealth, they’ll first be administered at mass vaccination events starting Friday, vaccinating those who are pre-registered.

“We want to run this through mass vaccinations and make sure that the uptick is really established, the safety is really established and then we can roll that out if there’s appetite in the community,” said Dr. Danny Avula, head of the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccine distribution efforts.

Avula confirmed the vaccine’s effectiveness and says VDH is full throttle, getting it to vaccination events, which will vaccinate 1,000-5,000 people per day. Afterward, VDH will look to the next steps as more supply becomes available.

“Then we’ll continue to roll it out in other places where it makes sense based on the logistical benefits of the vaccine,” said Avula.

For those who are skeptical about the new vaccine, Avula said the vaccine is not an apples-to-apples comparison to Phizer and Moderna, since the vaccine trials were held at different times, suggesting more coronavirus variants were circulating during the Johnson & Johnson trials.

Avula said Virginians will be notified prior to their appointments which vaccine type they are set to receive and can reschedule.  

“What we’re doing is being very clear about the events people are signing up for, saying, ‘This is a Johnson and Johnson event, here’s what you need to know about Johnson & Johnson, if you choose not to accept this vaccine, you’ll keep your spot in line and be offered the next Moderna and Phizer vaccine,” explained Avula.

Avula said there will be a slight dip in supply toward the end of the month, followed by a shipment increase of 100,000 doses closer to April. He expects the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will quickly make up about 20-30% of Virginia’s overall vaccine supply.

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