What you need to know about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia

Posted at 5:08 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 11:03:23-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Nearly 70,000 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses will arrive in Virginia over the next two days, state vaccine coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said.

Fourteen thousand doses are for the four health districts covering metro-Richmond.

Those doses could get into arms as early as Friday.

"Another almost 22,000 doses of J&J will be going to the retail pharmacies," Dr. Avula said. "So, through our existing pharmacy partners, they will start using that vaccine as well."

Avula said this shipment will cover the next two weeks of vaccinations.

He said he expected the number of doses Virginia will receive to drop off until the company can ramp up production at the end of March.

"We are anticipating that it will be somewhere around 100,000 doses. And then that number will just continue to increase," he said.

Avula said initially the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will only be used at mass vaccination events rather than for targeted populations because of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's roughly 20% lower efficacy rate in preventing mild to moderate symptoms of the virus compared with Moderna and Pfizer.

"We don't want to have any semblance of focusing a vaccine that could be perceived as less effective," he said. "Again, we don't at all believe that's the case, particularly for the the outcomes that matter most. But, because of that care and concern we want to roll it out in mass vaccination first."

Avula added it is not an apples-to-apples comparison as the Johnson & Johnson trials took place during a time when the new variants were spreading and points to what he considers the more important data point -- preventing deaths and hospitalizations.

"[It is] virtually 100% effective against death and hospitalization," he said.

He added when they do move to more targeted use -- the Johnson & Johnson vaccine -- being a single dose that doesn't require cold storage -- will give them more flexibility to reach populations where setting up a second dose may be more challenging.

Avula said organizers will be very clear when scheduling people about which vaccine they'll be getting.

If someone refuses one, they won't lose their place in line and will be contacted when a different vaccine is available.