Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved for immediate use in Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Rhode Island Vaccine Subcommittee unanimously approved the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the state. This means as soon as the state receives doses, they can go into the arms of people.

The new governor, Dan McKee joined the meeting Wednesday morning outlining his goals for the state’s roll-out plan.

“Vaccine is going to come in, capacity needs to get built, municipalities need to be brought into the mix,” Governor McKee said.

Governor McKee also placed a special emphasis on teachers following President Biden’s announcement that states should push for all teachers to get vaccinated by the end of March.

“There are priorities that I do have especially in terms of the school teachers,” Governor McKee said. “You all heard President Biden yesterday said clearly that we need to get our teachers vaccinated by the end of the month.”

Sub-committee members said they are working to include teachers in the state’s roll-out plan and that a third vaccine will make it that much easier.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is about 67% effective in preventing moderate infections and up to 85% effective in preventing severe disease.

The sub-committee says because the vaccine is only one-shot and can be stored easily in refrigerators for up to three months, this third vaccine can be used to target specific populations. Now, they’re working to figure out who would best benefit from it.

“This vaccine can increase access as it can be implemented in a wide variety of settings due to the ease of the storage,” Tricia Washburn with immunization for the Department of Health said.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said they are still working to figure out details, but would like to target hard-hit communities.

This chart represents certain zip codes most impacted by COVID-19 showing the highest populations are also the areas with the lowest vaccination rates.

“We’re giving a very effective vaccine that is even more convenient to the populations that can benefit most from it,” Dr. Alexander-Scott said. “That will take a while for people to really get comfortable with it.”

The sub-committee also acknowledged concern the public might have because of what appears to be a lower efficacy rate, but doctors say people can’t compare the Johnson & Johnson shot to Pfizer of Moderna’s because it was tested at different times with different people and different variants.

The state of Rhode Island is set to get an initial allocation of 9,100 doses. The next allotment won’t be for three weeks and it’s not clear how much they’ll get then.

Categories: News, Providence, Rhode Island