Homebound vaccine program stalled after J&J pause

SOUTHWICK- The Board of Health and Council on Aging’s Homebound Vaccine Program efforts were stalled at the last minute last week after the FDA and CDC recommended a nationwide pause on the use of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Director Tammy Spencer said that the recommendation came one minute after she had gone to the Commonwealth Clinic to pick up 50 doses of the J&J vaccine for the homebound program. 

The CDC and FDA recommended the pause, which has since been adopted by all 50 U.S. states, after at least six cases were discovered in which women developed blood clots within weeks of receiving the single-dose vaccine. All of the women were between the ages of 18 and 48. 

The six cases of blood clots were reported out of more than six million people who have received the J&J vaccine in the U.S. so far, though officials have said there could be more cases that have not yet been reported. At least one of the women has died due to the blood clots. 

Spencer said she was still able to pick up the 50 doses and have them stored until further guidance is given on how, or even if, they will be able to use them. The J&J vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures for up to 90 days. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines require temperatures that are far lower than what can be achieved by a normal refrigerator or freezer. 

“We were hoping to get it done before the Big E so we could have paramedics available to help administer the shots,” said Spencer.

The West of the River Collaborative COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic, the vaccine site on the grounds of the Big E, is scheduled to open tomorrow, April 20. Spencer said that Southwick Fire Chief Russ Anderson said that she could use some of his paramedics for the homebound program. She said that their paramedics will also have to be used for the Big E site, but she is not worried about not having paramedics available to administer the shots when the program is restarted. 

The Homebound Vaccine Program is designed to get COVID-19 vaccines to people who are physically unable to get out of their homes to get the vaccine at a clinic or mass vaccine site. Spencer and Council on Aging Director Cindy Sullivan were going to drive around Southwick with paramedics to administer shots to the homebound. 

Should the J&J vaccine no longer be permitted, they will need to use one of the two-dose vaccines, which means they will need to run the program again for the same people several weeks after the first dose.

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