The good news about regulatory approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine means more doses are on the way to Washington state. The bad news is that not much — so far — is coming our way.
After this week’s initial shipment of 60,900 Johnson & Johnson doses, Washington won’t receive any more of the third vaccine to gain federal emergency use authorization for another three weeks, officials from the state Department of Health (DOH) said during a Thursday briefing.
The Johnson & Johnson doses in hand will go to counties that haven’t received a proportional share of vaccine, said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary of health.
“It’s important to us that the counties who are behind, get their proportional share of vaccine,” she said. “So we’re sending most of our J&J doses to counties where their allocations were a bit lower in the past.”
Four counties — Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston and Whatcom — have already received 12,300 doses of the vaccine in total. The remaining vaccine doses will be assigned by Saturday and delivered Monday, said DOH spokesperson Shelby Anderson.
For vaccine providers, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is attractive because it’s a one-shot regimen and its vials, which store five doses, can be stored easily in the refrigerator for several months, if necessary.
There was a slight increase this week and next in the number of Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine being sent to Washington. The state got about 300,000 dose this week and will get about the same next week. By the end of the month Washington should be accepting about 330,000 doses, Fehrenbach said.
Those vaccines require a two-dose regimen as well as colder storage.
The three-week lag time between the first Johnson & Johnson shipment and the next comes as the state made another 260,000 people eligible for vaccination. The newly eligible are teachers, school support staff and licensed child-care workers, who were added Tuesday after President Joe Biden directed states to make educators eligible for vaccines.
The letdown of more Johnson & Johnson doses not being immediately available is tempered because state officials know what to expect and can plan for the end of the month when more vaccine will arrive, said Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s secretary of health.
“We have a third vaccine that is now added to our arsenal,” Shah said. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will help increase our vaccine supply across the state and improve access to COVID-19 vaccines in areas where providers didn’t have the capability to store the ultracold or frozen versions of the other vaccines.”