Updated: Fairfax County receives 3800 doses of J&J vaccine, more coming end of March

(Updated at 11:05 am on 3/12/21)  The Fairfax County Health Department decided to send their initial allotment of 3,800 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to local Inova hospitals, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The county’s allotment comes from the Commonwealth’s current supply of 69,000 doses that it received from the federal government last week.

Fairfax County Health Department spokesperson Jeremy Lasich confirms this and tells Reston Now that the county sent its J&J vaccine doses to Inova, because the county currently only has the capacity to give out a certain amount of doses. As supply picks up, the county will rely more on partners like Inova.

The hospital system is planning to use this supply for a vaccination clinic for residents 75 and over, Lasich says.

Nearly 110,00 Fairfax County residents remain on the waitlist for a vaccine appointment, though the pace of vaccinations has been picking up, according to the county’s dashboard, which indicates that residents who registered on Jan. 22 are now able to make appointments.

The county did say they expect to receive a fresh supply of J&J vaccine doses by the end of March. It’s unknown at this time exactly how many doses, Lasich says.

Additionally, a number of pharmacies in Fairfax County received the J&J vaccine through the federal partnership program, the Virginia Department of Health confirms to Reston Now.

The health department for nearby Arlington County opted to allocate 1,500 doses of the J&J vaccine for a mass vaccination event this past weekend.

D.C. got doses of the J&J vaccine that were used at high-capacity vaccination sites last week. The city is also asking residents which of the three available vaccines they’d prefer when they pre-register. A city official said on Twitter that it’s for data collection to understand demand.

However, Fairfax County is not asking this question or providing a vaccine option because it is “primarily using Pfizer for first-dose appointments right now.”

Lasich says that this is a change from earlier in the year, when the county health department was primarily using Moderna. Exactly which vaccine is used depends on the amount of doses received, he notes.

There’s evidence that some prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one-shot, rather than the two shots needed for both Pfizer’s and Moderna. This potentially could simplify and quicken the pace of vaccination.

In addition to lowering the commitment from patients, the J&J vaccine is easier to store, and it appears that recipients have been less prone to severe side effects.

One potential drawback to the J&J vaccine is that trials have shown that it is less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at preventing illness, though it still has an 85% efficacy against severe forms of COVID-19 and 100% efficacy against hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Even though that means it still offers strong protection, health officials are putting a lot of effort in convincing people that the J&J vaccine is not the “inferior” vaccine.

VDH tells Reston Now that it expects the J&J vaccine to make up close to 20% of the state’s supply in April, increasing to about 30% in May.

In Fairfax County, conversations are ongoing about giving registrants the option to choose which vaccine they will receive, but it will all depend on supply availability.

“The best vaccine is the one available to you at the appointment,” says Lasich.

In Fairfax County, though, that isn’t yet the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Updated to further clarify that the initial allotment of J&J doses sent to the county are going to Inova hospitals, which is a partner of the county.

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