First doses of new J&J vaccine arrive in San Diego County

Coronavirus

SAN DIEGO – The first doses of the new one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine have arrived in San Diego, the county announced Monday.

Starting Tuesday, they will be distributed in the county similarly to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the county said.

“San Diegans should get whichever vaccine is available when it’s their turn to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “All three vaccines are excellent at preventing people from getting seriously ill from COVID-19.”

California was expected to receive about 380,000 doses of the new vaccine within the past week, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. That supply is expected to increase “significantly” over the next several weeks, he said.

San Diego County will receive as many as 14,000 doses by Wednesday, according to the county. Appointments at Balboa Park’s Municipal Gym are booked for the week already, but next week is wide open, officials say.

“We won’t know until the end of the week what we get for next week,” said Monica Munoz, a spokeswoman with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. “So, essentially, what we do every Friday is we open our website allowing people to make appointments.”

In addition the Balboa Park location, the J&J vaccine now will be distributed to the homeless staying at the San Diego Convention Center as well as to workers there. Additionally, officials said some doses will be spread to places of distribution throughout the county.

Johnson & Johnson, which received emergency use authorization from the FDA late last month, said it plans to deliver 100 million single-shot vaccines in the first half of 2021.

It is the first single-dose vaccine to be authorized for use in the U.S., which Alex Gorsky, the company’s chairman and CEO, said comes after “a year of incredible work by our dedicated teams and unprecedented collaboration with health leaders around the world.”

Public health agencies are managing the allocation of the vaccine.

Vaccination sites in the county now are providing the vaccine to residents in Phase 1A and Phase 1B, including to people aged 65 years and older, health care workers and some essential workers such as teachers and farm workers, among others.

Nearly 1.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine has been delivered to the county. About 13% of San Diegans 16 and older are fully immunized while some 643,000 residents, or 23.9%, have received at least one dose of a two-dose vaccine, the county said.

“Regardless of which shot you get, you’ll be protected from serious complications from COVID-19 and will be able to protect others who are waiting their turn to be vaccinated,” Wooten said.

Some have been quick to point out that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine may only be 72% effective — compared to the other two vaccines which are 94 and 95%, respectively — but the county notes that the J&J vaccine was tested later when there were more variant strains of the virus attacking human immune systems.

In fact, some San Diegans, like Tara Reis, even prefer the J&J vaccine because it requires one shot.

“It’s so hard to get an appointment,” Reis said. “You just have to randomly search all day long. When it came down to it, I was going to take what they gave me. I was tired of living scared.”

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