Halting use of J&J vaccines could move Southwest Florida further from vaccination goal

Reporter: Veronica Marshall Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

After this hectic week in the vaccine rollout process, Lee Health CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci says, if you want to get vaccinated you should.

Even after Johnson & Johnson vaccine use was halted, Lee Health has 500 doses of the vaccine sitting unused.

WINK News wants asked medical leaders if this pause in use will push us further away from our vaccination goals.

More than 460 new COVID-19 cases and six more deaths were reported on Friday in Southwest Florida.

“Today, we have 106 patients with COVID that are in our hospitals. And only a few weeks ago, we were down in the 50 and 60 range,” Dr. Antonucci said.

Dr. Barry Bloom is a professor of public health at Harvard. “Cases have been overall in the country of plateauing, when they should be going down as vaccines are being rolled out,” said Dr. Bloom.

The rise is due in part to the spread of variants and COVID fatigue. This at a time when vaccinations are crucial.

“We know the only way we’re going to knock this disease out is by getting the population vaccinated,” said Dr. Antonucci.

Dr. Stephanie Stovall is the medical director for pediatric infection prevention at Lee Health and an Epidemiologist. “We are taking the J&J pause seriously. We did stop as soon as we heard about it, and we no longer administer doses,” Dr. Stovall said.

Stoval says that now those 500 J&J doses will just have to sit and wait in Lee Health’s freezers. Each day that goes by brings those doses closer and closer to their expiration date.

“Not continuing vaccination puts a lot more people at risk from COVID, for clotting problems, as well as other problems,” said Dr. Bloom.

Dr. Barry Bloom says that because the Jonhson & Johnson vaccine was expected to have a big impact on our vaccination goals.

“As of the present, that’s only been available in small amounts, about 5% of all the vaccines given, but the anticipation was that it would be scaled up and become available more widely than the other vaccines,” Dr. Bloom said.

Still, while we wait to hear if the pause is permanent or just temporary, we won’t have to wait long to get more vaccines to the state of Florida.

“We anticipate that in a very few weeks, we’re going to have more vaccine in the state than we’re actually going to need,” said Dr. Antonucci.

But, for now, just be prepared to roll your sleeve up more than once.

Lee Health expects this new shipment of 1500 more COVID-19 vaccine doses next week.

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