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Mountain counties receive first shipments of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, plan distribution

BUN. TEACHER VACCINE CLINIC.transfer_frame_624.jpg
FILE - Buncombe County Health and Human Services held a clinic Saturday, Feb. 27, for county teachers and school support staff who made appointments. Officials said they had about 550 appointments booked for the day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. School staff became eligible for a COVID-19 shot in North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

The first Johnson and Johnson single shot COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in the mountains.

Mission Health got the first shipment of 7,000 doses on Wednesday, March 3.

The doses were in refrigerators ready to be distributed to major health systems, county health departments and other vaccine clinics around Western North Carolina.

“Most of us are getting a topper from what we were getting last week, so that’s really good news,” said Dr. Teresa Herbert, chief medical officer for AdventHealth.

7,000 DOSES OF JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINE HEADED FOR THE MOUNTAINS, DOCTORS SAY

AdventHealth will receive 1,200 doses, Mission Health will receive around 1,000, and Pardee and Buncombe and Haywood County Health Departments will each 1000 doses.

The rest will go to smaller community vaccine providers.

Health providers met for their weekly briefing on Wednesday to map out distribution.

“You have to have it in arms by the 15th of March, so most of these shots will happen next week,” Herbert said.

Herbert said with the new vaccine coming online and Group 3 now eligible to get it, there is a lot going on right now.

'JUST NOT THERE YET' MOVE TO GROUP 3 VACCINES IS PUTTING STRESS ON NC HEALTH PROVIDERS

“We’re going to Group 3; there’s a lot of concern from essential workers and their employers,” said Herbert.

She said Buncombe, Henderson and Transylvania counties are still not done with even half of their vaccination waitlists for those 65 and older in their communities.

Therefore, even though the news of the new vaccine is promising, the wait for the vaccine will continue for most.

“7,000 in the grand scheme of 700-to-800,000 is just another step. It’s going to take us a lot of time,” said Dr. William Hathaway, chief medical officer for Mission Health.

Hathaway added they are still well away from having enough vaccines to vaccinate enough people to achieve herd immunity, which will take hundreds of thousands of more vaccines.

He said they don’t know how many Johnson & Johnson vaccines they’ll be getting from week to week.

Hathaway said the next up-and-coming vaccine is the AstraZeneca, which could be granted EUA status sometime in April.

He also stressed that, as weather gets warmer, people may feel more inclined to hang out with friends and family but he warns this is still not the time to let your guard down.

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