Johnson and Johnson vaccine booting local arsenal

By Adam Strunk

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is coming to Harvey County on top of more federally provided vaccines.

This week, owner of Hesston Pharmacy and Harvey Drug Sandy Kueker joined the health department to give an update on vaccinations.

For the coming week, Harvey County expects to receive 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine (600 first shot and 600 second shot) as well as 300 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Hesston Pharmacy expects to receive 300 vaccine doses, with 100 being from Moderna and 200 being Johnson & Johnson.

“We no longer accept waiting list names,” Kueker said. “If you come in and are in the group that needs vaccinated, we’ll set up an appointment.”

So far, Hesston Pharmacy has offered three sets of vaccinations, amounting to 1,381 doses.

All but 120 of those doses came from a federal program aimed at using private pharmacies to vaccinate the population.

“They give us an option,” she said. “We don’t have to accept the doses. But, of course, we don’t want to do that.”

She said the amount of doses depends on what’s available for each allotment.

Kueker said the best way to get an appointment with the pharmacy was to fill out an online form on the pharmacy website. She said you could also go in person and fill out a paper form. She also said people have the option of picking which one of the vaccines is administered.

The Johnson & Johnson version has some pros and cons compared to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

The pro is it takes a single shot to convey protection rather than two shots as the other vaccines take.

The con is it’s not quite as effective at preventing transmission, though it has tested highly effective at 85% at preventing severe COVID cases resulting in hospitalization or death. Testing of the vaccine also was conducted globally, including in locations where more contagious COVID-19 strains were common.

In the U.S. the vaccine proved 72% effective at preventing moderate symptoms (100.4 degree fever, constant cough, temporary shortness of breath).

This effectiveness was achieved after 28 days.

The higher 94 to 95 efficacy rates against symptoms from the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were achieved after closer to 40 days from first vaccination.

On the county end for this week, Health Department Director Lynnette Redington said the county, for people with already planned vaccinations, would receive the Moderna vaccine.

“We’re waiting to see with the Johnson & Johnson. All of us are very new to that. We don’t know if it requires any prep. At this point we’re going with Moderna, particularly for this week,” she said.

She did not provide the size of the county Phase 2 wait list, only that it decreased from the prior week. She said the county was getting about 50 sign ups a day still.

“We’re slowly getting through it,” she said of the waiting list. “Our 600 doses of primary, a large percentage is going to our 65-plus, but 600 goes real fast.”

She said, with the help of the federal pharmacy program with providers like Hesston Pharmacy, she hoped the county would move through its Phase 2 list relatively quickly.

“We have a lot of people that call in and say, ‘We’ve already gotten our vaccine,’” she said.

The state set the timeline for moving on to Phase 3 for April.

President Joe Biden made the claim on Tuesday that there would be enough vaccine available for every American by late May.

Biden previously set a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days (by April 29). The U.S. currently is on track to have vaccinated approximately 150 million Americans by that time period, according to NBC News.

Finally, in-county infections continue to go down. Redington said the county has been seeing about five new cases a day. This week, the COVID-19 cases in the county held steady. There were 37 new cases. Active cases are at 52. Five are hospitalized. Fifty-nine have died from COVID-19.