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Local pharmacies experience demand for Johnson & Johnson vaccine after pause ends

Updated: Apr. 26, 2021 at 6:08 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Some vaccine providers in Charlotte are once again offering the Johnson and Johnson one-dose-shot.

This comes following a 10-day pause on the vaccine, after 15 cases were reported of women developing rare blood clots after getting the shot.

Experts with the CDC and FDA determined that the benefits of the shot outweigh the potential risks.

Some doctors have been concerned that the pause could add to vaccine hesitancy, but Greg Deese, who owns Oakhurst Pharmacy in east Charlotte was pleasantly surprised.

Deese said the overwhelming majority of people calling his pharmacy want the one-dose shot.

Deese provides patients with updated paperwork outlining the risks associated with the vaccine.

Customer Curt Pires says he did his research and he’s not letting a brief pause of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine discourage him from getting the shot.

“The numbers were so low and I think you have to look past that and look for the greater good,” Pires told WBTV.

For him, it’s all about efficiency.

“I think we should all go through the process of getting vaccinated and so every person gets the right to make his own decision but I thought the idea of only getting the one-shot was the way to go,” he said.

He’s not the only one making that call.

“Probably about 75 to 80 percent are still saying while there’s a risk, they prefer the one-shot instead of the two-shot and having to make the second trip and having to have the second chance of having some kind of reaction,” Deese said.

Deese said the phone started ringing as soon as the CDC and FDA made the announcement Friday.

“Well at first I was concerned yet then when they took it off the market and evaluated it, I don’t think they’d put it on the market again if it was that dangerous,” Mary, another customer, said.

During the pause, the pharmacy got its first shipment of Moderna and some customers are still choosing that.

But according to Deese, demand for the one dose shot is exceeding all else on its first day back as an option.

“If every day is like today, I’ll be able to give 100 this week,” he said.

Because of the interest, Deese says he signed up for weekly shipments of 100 doses of the J & J shot as well as 100 of Moderna.

He offers walk-ins from 10 am to 4 pm and appointments online.

Mecklenburg County and StarMed health care will resume administering the one-dose shot on Tuesday.

Hospital systems Novant Health and Atrium Health have not set a date for when they will resume administering Johnson and Johnson.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Novant Health said:

“Novant Health is in the process of carefully reviewing the FDA and CDC report and do not have an update on whether we will continue the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. We continue to have adequate supply of two-dose vaccines, which are available at all of our vaccination clinics for a walk-in or by appointment.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Atrium Health said:

“During a brief pause, the CDC and FDA weighed the risks of resuming use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the risks of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths should they continue to restrict the use of this vaccine. Ultimately, the decision was made that the greater protection to our community is provided by resuming use of the J&J vaccine.

Following guidance from the CDC, FDA and the NC Department of Health and Human Services, Atrium Health will resume offering the J&J vaccine. Guidance for providers has been updated to include information about additional risk and symptoms to monitor for and how to safely treat and report its rare side effects. We are currently working through plans to determine when and where we will offer the vaccine when it becomes available. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are still being offered, with appointments currently available at thisismyshot.com.”

In Gaston County, Gaston Emergency Management Services has more than 100 doses up for grabs.

To schedule a first-come, first-serve appointment, call 704- 866- 3212.

In South Carolina, pharmacists told WBTV, people also prefer the one-shot Johnson and Johnson dose.

South Carolina was only getting about 5,000 doses of the shot each week before the pause.

This caused SCDHEC to stop giving more doses to some pharmacies across the state for two to three weeks.

Dr. Hewis Bartels, from Redec Pharmacy in Fort Mill, said her phone was ringing off the hook with people who were waiting for the vaccine to come back.

Dr. Bartels also said people refused to take the Moderna vaccine that she had available.

She said people lined up on Saturday to fulfill their appointments for the Johnson and Johnson shot.

“There was a huge sense of relief knowing that we could administer the Johnson and Johnson vaccine again,” Dr. Bartels said.

SCDHEC officials continue to remind people wanting the vaccine to go ahead and take whichever brand is available.

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