Johnson & Johnson vaccine returns to Tri-Cities clinics Monday

Local Coronavirus Coverage

TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was able to be administered in the Tri-Cities for the first time in nearly two weeks on Monday.

This comes after advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA voted Friday to resume distribution following an investigation of a potential link to rare but serious blood clots.

Now that the J&J vaccine has been given the green light on a national level, local plans are in place as early as Monday to start redistributing the one-shot vaccine.

After the Tennessee Department of Health gave the go-ahead, the Sullivan County Regional Health Department started giving the J&J vaccine this afternoon to anyone who wants it at Whitetop Creek Park.

“All three vaccines are safe and effective. It’s really better than contracting the disease,” said Emergency Response Coordinator Mark Moody.

The department says it is a good thing to pick back up distribution.

“It will attract that population that want one shot and to be done with it. Logistically, it is a lot easier to handle because you don’t have to worry about scheduling,” said Moody.

For Ballad Health’s clinics offering J&J, they are clear to pick back up distribution Monday. Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift says people should be confident in this vaccine.

“Obviously the J&J may cause some hesitancy, I really encourage people to talk to their providers. There is a lot of information out there. The pause was exactly what we wanted it to be. For the FDA and CDC to really determine the risk versus the benefit,” said Swift.

In Southwest Virginia, local health departments plan to primarily use Johnson and Johnson for mobile clinics starting next week, giving people access to the shot in more rural areas.

“We are thrilled to be able to take the vaccine out into communities where people can have it more available to them,” said Dr. Karen Shelton, director of the Mount Rogers Health District.

For Dr. Shelton, this period of review for the J&J vaccine should give people a sense of security following a handful of cases where blood clots occurred.

“Out of over 7 million vaccines, that is a very small number,” said Shelton. “This was a very important piece to understand how the safety system works.”

With low turnout locally, health leaders continue to urge people of all ages to get the shot.

“If you are not comfortable with getting J&J, do not let that impact your decision to get vaccinated. There are two other vaccines on the market that have not had this complication,” said Swift.

For the other Northeast Tennessee counties besides Sullivan, the regional health office will begin giving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine soon. Dates and locations are to be determined.

And for ETSU Health, conversations began Monday on when to reopen their clinics offering the single-dose shot.

Information on how to register for a vaccine in Tennessee can be found here.

For Virginia, click here.

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