COLUMBUS (WCMH) — After use of the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson was halted on Tuesday, health providers across the state could face even more challenges getting those in rural areas vaccinated.
Adena Health System told NBC4 that they had been using only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for those 18-and-up, and while this could have serious ramifications on providers everywhere, Adena hopes the transition to one of the other vaccines available will be seamless.
Adena operates one of the state’s 16 mass vaccination clinics in Chillicothe at the Adena PACCAR Medical Education Center.
One spokesperson told NBC4 that they had been seeing greater demand in their area for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it requires just the one shot, and because it has shown to be 100% effective in preventing hospitalizations and serious illness caused by COVID-19.
What does the Johnson & Johnson pause mean for the clinic moving forward?
In a statement, the healthcare system says, “We will be continuing our mass vaccination clinic appointments for this week, Wednesday through Friday, using the Moderna vaccine and scheduling those individuals for their second appointments. Anyone scheduled at the Adena PACCAR Medical Education Center mass vaccination clinic this week will receive a call from ODH regarding the change from Johnson & Johnson to Moderna vaccines with the option if they want to keep their appointment.”
Adena says they have enough Moderna on-hand already to get them through this week, with another shipment expected next week through ODH distribution.
However, the latest with Johnson & Johnson only complicates efforts in rural parts of the state where getting shots in arms has already been difficult.
“Obviously, there’s a much larger geographical area than some of the urban areas like Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland,” says Seth Haynes, Adena’s Director of Quality.
Haynes says that logistics with the two earlier vaccines were a challenge as it relates to storage. Online scheduling also created struggles for individuals in rural areas trying to register for appointments.
“Some of the pharmacies locally, at least in Ross County, are not actually vaccine clinics any longer,” says Haynes. “It was hard for them to manage. Kroger and things, I’ve seen a lot of the chains, but a lot of the mom-and-pop pharmacies have stopped distributing.”
But Adena has been doing all they can to make the process easier, including providing free transportation to-and-from the vaccination clinic.
“We’re the only mass vax site that has transportation set up for those 14 counties to get transportation to our vaccine clinic,” says Haynes. “We were trying to help some of that underserved population actually be able to set up a transportation appointment that’s free, to our mass vax site, with some of our local county transportation departments.”
So far more than 150,000 vaccines have been started in Adena’s 14-county region, accounting for about 35% of the combined population in those counties.
They aren’t just vaccinating people in their area, though.
“Out of every 10 people that I speak to, at least one of them is outside of our 14 counties. Franklin County probably being the highest zip code that’s coming outside of our 14-county region,” Haynes says. “It’s actually open to anyone, so we’ve had people that have driven from Chicago, Ann Arbor, Michigan.”
But vaccination numbers are still down in many rural parts of the state, and vaccine hesitancy is part of the problem.
“I think just some of the hesitancy is around that it’s not fully approved, it’s experimental utilization of this vaccine,” admits Haynes. “Just how it was presented, this EUA, approval for Emergency Use Authorization Act. I think that’s some of the hesitancy at least that we’ve heard locally.”
Haynes says their goal is to vaccinate at least 50% of their 14-county population.
The Adena PACCAR Medical Education Center mass vaccination clinic operates Tuesday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment only.