New Jersey vaccine clinics pivot after Johnson & Johnson pause

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Many agencies and organizations had been taking advantage of the convenience of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, using it to vaccinate hard-to-reach populations.

When the CDC recommended a pause on its use Tuesday, public health organizers got to work, coming up with a backup plan.

On Monday, the City of Trenton kicked off its homebound vaccination program, going from home to home, vaccinating those who can't make it to a vaccine clinic on their own using the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Less than 24 hours later came the recommendation from the CDC to temporarily stop using it.

"We immediately started brainstorming and thinking of alternative sources of which we could receive additional vaccines other than the J&J," said Dr. Adela Ames-Lopez, director of health and human services for the City of Trenton.

She says her team reached out to the State of New Jersey and Mercer County, and by Thursday they secured 2,000 extra Moderna vaccines.



Ames-Lopez says some of these doses will go to pop-up sites next week, and some will be used to continue the homebound program with two doses instead of one.

"Because you're going out into the community; you're talking to your residents, and if I have to do that twice in 30 days, I'll take that," said Ames-Lopez.

She says her team will continue to check in on those Trenton residents who received the J&J vaccine for another two to three weeks, especially women in the 18-48 age bracket.

"I can tell you the residents we vaccinated on Monday - the homebound residents - we did call all of them to see how they were doing. And all of them are feeling well," said Ames-Lopez.

While New Jersey's mega-sites and other large clinics have been largely unaffected, according to state officials, some smaller clinics using Johnson & Johnson only have been affected.

Dr. Richard Jermyn of Rowan Medicine has been vaccinating the homeless and migrant populations in Atlantic County using Johnson & Johnson.

He says the New Jersey Department of Health encouraged him to the two-dose Moderna vaccine instead, which comes with the challenge of administering that second dose.

"We have to be realistic that many, if not most, won't come back again, but we will absolutely make the attempt," said Jermyn. "At the end of the day, if we don't get them back, I do think one injection is better than none."

Jermyn hopes to have the Moderna doses in hand next week, planning to hold some pop-up clinics to make up for the ones canceled this week.
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