COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine on Saturday, Missouri leaders are meeting to figure out what distribution will look like.
ABC reports the approval means 3.9 million doses of the new vaccine could be shipped as early as Monday with about 800,000 expected to go directly to pharmacies.
A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Lisa Cox told ABC17 News leaders were in meetings today receiving more information and guidance from our federal partners about the vaccine distribution.
Missouri DHSS issued statewide order for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, authorizing it to be administered in the state. The Governor was quoted in a press release saying it will be distributed the same way the current vaccines are shipped.
During these initial weeks that the Janssen vaccine is available, we will be allocating it across all current delivery channels providing vaccinations for Missourians. Hospitals, local public health agencies, federally-qualified health centers and mass vaccination clinics will be included in the plan to distribute the Janssen vaccine so local providers can help determine which populations could be best served with a single-dose regimen.”Governor Mike Parson (R - Missouri)
Sara Humm with the Columbia/Boone County Health Department said the state is expecting the new vaccine to be available soon, but the department is unaware of when or how much will come to the area.
Humm said Gov. Mike Parson is expecting about 50,000 doses to come to the state initially, then it will decrease for a few weeks as the state moves forward to Tier 3 in Mid-March.
"One of the issues has been low supply of the vaccine, and here in Boone County, we have a much higher demand than we have supply," Humm said. "Anymore supply that we can get is good news for us getting through Tier 2."
Humm said the department hopes to get more information about the distribution of the new vaccine this week. She said there are different ideas about where the J&J vaccine should go.
"It's kinda hard to tell because we don't know how much we will be getting, so it's hard to plan till we know what that looks like," Humm said.
MU Health said the system currently does not have a lot of information on the distribution plan but will take whatever the state decided to allocate.
There are quite a few differences with the Johnson & Johnson compared to the two currently approved vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna. Dr. Adam Wheeler with Big Tree Medical Home said it is a good vaccine, but people likely will not get a choice when it comes their time.
"It's probably not as good as the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines, but still a really great vaccine," Wheeler said. "And most of the time people are going to get a choice, so it's going to be you're going to have this option of nothing else, and so I'd certainly recommend taking it."
In tests across the globe, the J&J vaccine was found to be 66.1% effective against moderate to severe COVID-19 infections at least four weeks after vaccination, according to the FDA analysis. In the US, it's considered 72% effective, but 86% effective against severe forms of the disease which lead to hospitalization.
It is a single-dose vaccine and doesn't require the ultra-cold storage its counterparts require, which Wheeler said could also help in speeding up distribution.
"We're all hoping so," Wheeler said. "There's two levels there: will it make it easier for places in more rural areas to get? Yes probably so."
He also expects the storage temperature to allow more rural areas to be able to order smaller amounts of doses, as storage has been an issue with the current vaccines.
Wheeler said he isn't sure when smaller clinic's like Big Tree Medical Home will be able to distribute the vaccine, as there are certain requirements that must be met.
"The level of regulatory burden to be able to do vaccine is really high and not something that most independent clinics have the capability of doing," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said in his years working as a pediatrician and throughout the medical world, there is a lot more vaccine hesitancy from patients about this vaccine.
"As far as we can tell, and we can tell from a lot of information on this, this is a very safe vaccine," Wheeler said. "It's certainly safer than getting the disease."
In the fight against COVID-19, Wheeler said this is an important step because it helps the population inch closer to more immunity and weeding out the virus.
"If every person that gets it gives it to less than fewer than one person on average, then the virus will die," Wheeler said. "Once the combination of natural immunity and vaccine-created immunity gets you past that threshold then we are going to see a precipitous decline in the number of cases and deaths."
"We're hoping the more vaccine we get into the system, the quicker we get to that critical threshold, then we all get to go back to life as usual," Wheeler said.