Roy Exum: J&J Vaccine A Godsend

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Within hours after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, truckloads of the life-saving medicine were rolling out of a distribution center in Kentucky. According to a state source, Tennessee will get at least 40,000 doses early this week, and in Hamilton County as well as the rest of America, it is a Godsend. “The Health Department was able to give 5,000 doses this weekend – which is a huge tribute to a lot of people,” said County Mayor Jim Coppinger on Monday, ”and, yessir, we are able to give a whole lot more. Get us the vaccine and we’ll get it into people’s arms the minute it gets here.”

Coming right up!

The untold beauty of the J&J vaccine is its versatility.

Manufactured by J&J subsidiary Janssen Biotech, the new vaccine is a one-dose injection, compared to the Moderna and Pfizer brands that require a follow-up injection. The J&J model can be stored in regular refrigeration – not the sub-zero storage Moderna and Pfizer require – and will be a boon to rural counties that do not have such equipment.

The portability of the J&J vaccine greatly enhances the vaccine’s availability in all doctors' offices, hospital emergency rooms and other health outlets. Trials for the J&J vaccine showed incredible turnarounds when it was administered to hospitalized coronavirus patients.

So, if state officials, albeit very wisely, divert the J&J vaccine to the 90 Tennessee counties that do not have fully functioning health departments as the five largest cities in the state do, that releases more of the first two vaccines to the larger metropolitan areas. Since late January, the weekly vaccine allotment for Tennessee has been 80,000 doses but by the end of this week, 196,000 doses are expected to arrive in state.

The county mayor says, “Obviously, with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine now being added, we are eager to ramp up our daily inoculations and hope we’ll get down to those (age) 60-over much quicker. We have also been able to arrange clinics like the one at Brainerd High this weekend. We feel it is a huge responsibility to have these one-or-two-day clinics in areas where transportation is a hurdle and Becky (Barnes, head of the county health department) wants to do more of these neighborhood venues as more vaccine becomes available. Listen, what the health department has achieved in these first two months is wonderful.

“Right now, we are very comfortable offering first and second does appointments about a week out. In addition to the Riverfront and CARTA sites, our new facility at Enterprise South is really a pleasant surprise. (Go north on I-75 towards Ooltewah and take the Volkswagen Drive exit.) We have the capability to give more injections at all three sites so the addition of the J&J vaccine will hopefully allow us to do that pretty soon.”

By last night, it was believed Johnson&Johnson would have shipped 4 million doses with the promise of another 20 million doses during the month of March. A recent FDA analysis found the single-dose J&J was 85 percent effective but, remember, it was just made available this week and it is 100 percent effective against COVID-related death. “All three vaccines are really good,” COVID expert Anthony Fauci said on “Meet the Press” Sunday, “and people should take what is first available to them.”

There is a fourth vaccine that could enter the rich USA market anytime -- a shot from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford that is in use in Britain, Europe, South Asia, Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere. For instance, one in every three British citizens has already been dosed. It could make its USA debut in the coming weeks and bolster competition between the drug suppliers, much to the American public’s benefit.

Mayor Coppinger said the Health Department’s Vaccine Appointment Call Center will give those without computer access the ability to make appointments over the phone. “It is up-and-running. The computer-driven appointment system is working great, and it is the best and easiest way to make appointments. But our telephone bank is there for a reason and we urge our citizens without personal computer access to use it:

* -- For first-dose appointments, call 423/209-5398

* -- For second-dose appointments, call 423/209-5399

* -- Spanish-speaking persons, call 423/209-5384

“Our shipments vary. Right now, we are giving more Pfizer than Moderna, based solely on availability,” Coppinger said “but every health expert will tell you it isn’t about the brand, it is about protection, and all three vaccines offer that.”

There is a three-week window between the first and second dose of Pfizer, versus a four-week wait between doses of Moderna, but the FDA just announced research, as published in the British medical journal ‘The Lancet’, that the vaccine was 85 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 within 15 to 28 days after the first shot was administered.

Since then, a dramatic slide in COVID cases has just plateaued and top health officials are racing against the clock to inoculate as many Americans as possible. Just as mysteriously as the cases of COVID have dropped in the past six weeks, the disease is rebounding. Our best epidemiologists can show that nationwide, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths has increased again. Experts are concerned that newer, more infectious variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may be taking over.

This is why there is such a mad race to inoculate as many Americans as possible and, while there is medical data to warrant prolonging the second shot in order to use those doses instead to benefit first-dose users.

"Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19," Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press briefing of the White House COVID-19 Response Team – this from NBC News. Fact: the United States is still recording nearly 70,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths per day.

* * *

Very sadly, Joe Biden and his followers are taking credit for the exploding number of additional virus doses that have become available but that is unfortunate. On the day Biden was sworn in as President, the fact is 10.5 million doses of vaccine had been given and the groundwork was well in place to produce millions more doses.

What is true is President Biden has expedited the delivery but only the Democrats know why this misinterpretation of fact even matters. The fact is who cares? All that matters is the Americans are getting vaccines. Putting politics into saving lives is absolutely bogus.

Please, search for solutions. We’ve got the excuses down pat.

Ignoring the facts does not change the facts. Let’s go!

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