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Idaho providers facing shortage of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

While there is a shortage of the one-dose vaccine, providers say they have plenty of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

BOISE, Idaho — Central District Health (CDH) is facing a shortage of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to a manufacturing issue on the East Coast that ruined millions of doses. This comes as the company is monitoring a number of severe reactions to the vaccine across the country.

CDH received 800 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, down from 6,700 doses last week, according to a spokesperson.

While the shortage could last a few weeks, local providers have plenty of Pfizer and Moderna doses for anyone who wants to schedule their vaccination.

“Last week I believe we had a little over 1,000 doses of the Johnson [& Johnson] and this week we have only 100,” CEO of Primary Health Dr. David Peterman said.

Once Primary Health uses those 100 doses, they will not receive any more for the next several weeks.

“We've been told by the health departments it could be two weeks before we receive any, and if we do receive some, it'll be significantly limited,” Peterman said. 

The shortage could have a negative impact on Idaho's vaccine rollout, according to Peterman.

“I do have a worry that if we don't have as much Johnson & Johnson then less people will be vaccinated,” he said. “As we move down the age groups with coronavirus and vaccinations, obviously the younger the patient and people are they tend to be less worried about coronavirus.”

Although they never received many doses of the Janssen vaccine to begin with, St. Luke's is also experiencing a shortage.

“That sharply reduced everything to our state so this week we were allocated zero across all of our districts that we're engaged in,” Senior Director of Pharmacy Scott Milner said. “We received zero this week down from 200 from two weeks ago.”

The demand for the Janssen vaccine is present at St. Luke's and Primary Health.

“We have a lot of populations and a lot of areas where there are people phoning in specifically asking where they can get that vaccine,” Milner said.

This is causing some people to think about delaying their vaccine appointment to wait for the one-shot dose. Dr. Laura McGeorge, the service line medical director for primary care at St. Luke’s, said people should think about reconsidering.

“There’s really no advantage to getting that vaccine and there is plenty of Pfizer and Moderna out there,” she said. “You could wait a month for Johnson & Johnson, or you could get your Pfizer today and get your Pfizer booster in three weeks.”

This also comes at the same time four states- Georgia, Colorado, North Carolina, and Iowa- have reported more than 40 adverse reactions to the Janssen vaccine.

Eight people had reactions at a fairground site in Georgia out of 425 shots administered on Wednesday.

Idaho has not reported a severe reaction to this shot and providers are moving forward with administering their doses of Johnson & Johnson.

“Serious reactions are exceedingly rare, very, very rare,” Peterman said. “These are safe vaccines and so we continue to give all three as long as we have them.”

There are also risks of not getting the vaccine, like catching a severe case of COVID-19.

“We want people to understand we believe these are safe and effective,” Milner said.

A spokesperson for Saint Alphonsus said they are confident in their doses' safety. They are offering this vaccine to patients that face barriers to receiving booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As such, when available it is administered primarily at our mobile vaccine clinics for the purpose of convenience and outreach to underserved populations who face challenges accessing medical care,” Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Steve Nemerson said.

Anyone 16 and older in Idaho is eligible for the vaccine and there is plenty of both Pfizer and Moderna.

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