J&J vaccine pause impacts effort to inoculate underserved Coloradans

COVID-19 Vaccine

DENVER (KDVR) — The pause on administering Johnson & Johnson vaccines will have an impact on the state’s effort to inoculate residents in rural areas and those who are medically underserved, officials said Tuesday.

Dr. Connie Price, chief medical officer at Denver Health Medical Center, described the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as key in the health system’s outreach strategy because it had the advantage of requiring a single dose. The pause comes following federal guidance and concern over a rare potential side effect of blood clots in women.

“[Government officials], out of an abundance of caution, paused this vaccine until they can investigate further and see what’s going on,” said Centura Health CEO Peter Banko.

Centura Health officials said, logistically, they’ll be OK over the next couple weeks with their current supply of Pfizer and Moderna.

“We’re going to continue on just as expected,” said Centura Dr. Shauna Gulley. 

The State of Colorado vaccination buses — offering Johnsons & Johnson vaccines exclusively — are not moving as CDPHE officials determine what to do next. Denver Health’s public outreach team said getting to those hard-to-reach populations will now be more difficult.

“You have to find a way to get that second dose to these populations that might be hard to find again,” Price explained.

Overall, the impact statewide is relatively small.

Of all Coloradans currently vaccinated, 4% have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to CDPHE statistics.

In Weld County, for example, a total of roughly 4,000 Johnson & Johnson doses are currently at doctors’ offices. By contrast, 3,000 Moderna doses are administered weekly by the Weld County Health Department.

“People are hearing— ‘Hey, I can’t get the Johnson & Johnson…’ That’s OK we’ve got lots of Moderna,” said Weld County Health Department spokesperson Eric Aakko.

Salud Family Health Centers, on a mission to serve the underserved, are relying almost entirely on Moderna. The clinics’ 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were scheduled to be administered in Fort Collins, Longmont, Aurora and Fort Morgan next week. Those Salud J&J events have now been delayed.

Many providers said the Johnson & Johnson appointments are still being honored using Pfizer or Moderna.

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