Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
More than 17,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive Wednesday in New Mexico, marking a near 30% increase in the state’s recent weekly vaccine allocation.
And that’s good news, potentially, for Tom Robinson, the only pharmacist at the Bestcare Pharmacy in Tucumcari, where some customers currently have to drive up to an hour to get a vaccine and must return weeks later for the booster shot.
“I think more people like it because that means they only have to get one dose,” Robinson said.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Saturday became the third to receive approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in fighting COVID-19.
In recent weeks, state Department of Health officials reported receiving about 60,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines a week.
DOH officials said the state is expected to receive 17,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Wednesday but haven’t specified how the shipment might be allocated around the state.
State Health Secretary Tracie Collins recently told a legislative committee, “The wonderful thing about Johnson & Johnson is it’s one dose, it has a good shelf life, there’s not the ultra-cold storage issue.”
It can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures for months at a time.
That type of vaccine could be best “for people who are hard to reach, transient, who don’t stay in one place long enough, those populations,” Collins told the Senate committee last month. DOH officials have also mentioned that the one-dose vaccine could be most helpful in rural areas of the state where access might be an obstacle.
Robinson said his pharmacy’s headquarters in Albuquerque has ordered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but he wasn’t sure how much the
Tucumcari location would get or when.
But Robinson, who gives 12 to 14 Moderna COVID-19 vaccines a day, along with filling prescriptions and other duties, said he believes the new one-dose vaccine “would probably” make his life a little easier.
Nowadays, he has to get to work early to unfreeze the day’s vaccine.
His pharmacy attracts customers from Conchas, Mosquero and Logan, some of whom have to drive 45 minutes to an hour to get there.
“We’re very remote,” he said.
Johnson & Johnson is expected to begin shipping nearly 4 million doses nationwide this week, with the vaccine allocation based on a state’s population.
An international study found the vaccine to be 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, in contrast to Pfizer’s and Moderna’s higher figures of 95% and 94%, according to National Public Radio. The New York Times reported the vaccine had an overall efficacy rate of 72% in the United States.
But vaccine trials were conducted at different times during the pandemic and in different countries with different transmission rates, making direct comparisons nearly impossible, experts say.
All available vaccines in the U.S. – including Johnson & Johnson’s – prevented 100% of COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths in clinical trials, state health officials say.
The state’s current allotment might change in the near future, according to The New York Times, which reported Monday that 3.9 million shots will be delivered this week in the U.S., but none the week after. By the end of March, the company said it expects to ship another 16 million more doses.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the state DOH reported 166 new additional COVID-19 cases statewide – with Bernalillo County’s number taking a dive to 55 new cases – and 13 virus-related deaths.
With a total of 185,297 cases reported as of Monday, the rolling seven-day average of new daily cases was 325.