The first shipment of the third COVID-19 vaccine to secure emergency-use approval from the federal government arrived in Washington state this week.
The shipment came only days after President Joe Biden announced there could be enough vaccine for all adults in the United States by the end of May.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will not only eventually help increase supply but also raises questions about where the newly approved vaccine will go and into whose arms.
Unlike the two doses needed for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single shot and can be stored in a regular refrigerator for months. It also doesn’t require special equipment because it doesn’t require ultracold refrigeration like the first two vaccines.
FAQ Friday answers reader questions about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and what it means for the state’s vaccination program.
How much Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the state receiving and where is it going?
Washington is slated to get about 60,900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week, but won’t get more for another three weeks.
The new vaccine comes as Washington added teachers, school support staff and licensed child care workers to the list of those eligible for vaccination after being ordered by the Biden administration.
The addition of K-12 employees and child care workers makes about 260,000 more people eligible to be vaccinated.
Having a highly effective vaccine that requires a single shot is an important factor to increasing the rate of vaccination, said Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s secretary of health.
“I do want to emphasize that all of these COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths,” Shah said during a Thursday news briefing. “In other words, if you are a community member, and you’re eligible and offered any of these three vaccines, our message is ‘Do not hesitate, vaccinate.’ “
The amount of vaccine coming to the state could significantly increase as we near summer. Biden announced Tuesday that drugmaker Merck is going to help produce Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
It was also announced Tuesday that the federal government is increasing supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine next week to 15.2 million doses.
Washington is receiving about 300,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines this week and is expecting about the same next week. By the end of the month Washington will be getting about 330,000 doses of vaccine, said Lacy Fehrenbach, Department of Health (DOH) deputy secretary of health for COVID-19 response.
DOH officials said most of the initial shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will go to counties needing to catch up with vaccinations.
Gov. Jay Inslee and DOH have a goal to administer 45,000 shots a day. The current seven-day average is at 43,765 doses going into arms, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Can the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be used as the second shot if the first shot was Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech?
The vaccines aren’t interchangeable and people need to stick with the two-dose vaccine with which they started, said Shelby Anderson, a state Department of Health spokesperson.
“We ask people to bring a copy of their medical record showing which vaccine they received the first time when they arrive for their second dose,” she wrote in an email.