Pause in Vaccinations Leads to Canceled Appointments Across States

on Apr14
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The Albany County Health Department in New York said it would provide Pfizer doses for a Johnson & Johnson clinic on Tuesday at a local university. The chief public health officer in Detroit said people who had appointments for a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a city-run site would be allowed to keep their times and receive a Pfizer or Moderna shot. And officials in New Hampshire, who had planned to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Tuesday at clinics and for homebound patients, said they were working to find Pfizer or Moderna doses to use instead.

“This news will not slow down New Hampshire,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement. “While the federal government has directed a brief pause in the J&J vaccine, the state is already working with our partners to ensure that they have an alternative supply of Pfizer or Moderna to help continue their efforts today.”

But in some places, there was no immediate alternative. In Aurora, Ill., a mass vaccination clinic planned for Tuesday was called off, leaving 1,000 patients without appointments. In Riverside County, Calif., mobile clinics that had planned to vaccinate about 400 people in less populous areas on Tuesday were canceled. And in rural Jefferson County, in southeast Iowa, a Johnson & Johnson clinic targeting manufacturing workers was scrapped at the last minute.

“It was so heartbreaking to me,” said Christine Estle, the county’s public health nurse administrator, who said she and her colleagues had encouraged the roughly 140 people scheduled to attend to make appointments at local pharmacies or hospitals.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine had long been seen as a key to the country’s vaccination effort because it requires only one shot, unlike the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer regimens, and because it can be stored more easily. In cities around the country, public health experts had begun using the vaccine in places where hesitancy about one shot — much less two — is high.

“I just want to do everything we can to have those people who signed up for appointments still come for them with Pfizer or Moderna,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the Chicago public health commissioner, who said she worried that the pause would undermine vaccine confidence and that she had already heard of skeptical patients asking whether the other shots were safe.

Dr. Arwady said her department had been using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to reach people who might otherwise be unlikely to seek one out by offering it at workplaces, churches and even along bus lines.

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