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Curious Cbus: How Do I Get The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine?

Ohio State University clinic manager Paige Blankenship, left, administers one of the first Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to Osvaldo Campanella Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete
/
Associated Press
Ohio State University clinic manager Paige Blankenship, left, administers one of the first Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to Osvaldo Campanella Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio.

On March 2, the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center administered the first dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the United States after its authorization from the Federal Drug Administration.

Unlike other vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single shot, but the number of doses available in Ohio is far less than the other two vaccines. So finding this specific vaccine has not been easy.

In fact, since WOSU started collecting questions for our A Year Of COVID series, the most frequently submitted question concerns how to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Some want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the convenience of having a single dose, rather than two. Others say they have a history of allergic reactions, have a fear of needles, or don’t want the newer mRNA vaccines. Another factor is that Johnson & Johnson is a well-known brand with name recognition while Moderna and Pfizer are lesser-known.

The Ohio Department of Health does not recommend trying to track down a specific brand, and many Ohioans are still struggling to get a vaccine appointment of any kind.

Alicia Shoults, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health, says the state is not listing providers by the type of vaccine they have. The ODH recommends that all residents get the first vaccine available.

“All of the available vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19,” Shoults said in an email. “If an Ohioan has further questions about vaccine availability, they should call the providers directly to find out which vaccine they have available.”

Dr. Nicholas Kman is an emergency physician at the Wexner Medical Center and a medical manager for Ohio’s FEMA task force. He agrees that in nearly all cases, people should get the first available vaccine.

“The first thing I think we want to educate people on is all of these vaccines are very efficacious in preventing the things that we care about most, and that's hospitalizations and deaths,” Kman said.

Kman works at Ohio State's vaccine clinic at the Schottenstein Center, which has administered over 100,000 vaccine doses. Only a few hundred of those were Johnson & Johnson.

That’s partly due to limited supply and partly due to the fact that the clinic has the ultra-cold storage to properly preserve the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Ultimately, the state decides how vaccines are allocated and the supply is not always predictable.

“One of the reasons why we don't advise one over another is it's hard to know who has what,” Kman said.

Kman also noted that for those wanting a single shot, the protocol might change. Johnson & Johnson is studying a booster shot. Sometime in the future, a second dose may be recommended.

Right now, most providers will not offer a choice of vaccine when signing up, though they typically will inform the patient which vaccine they'll receive after the appointment is made.

That’s the case at Kroger pharmacies. When someone makes an appointment online, the vaccine brand is indicated, but there is no choice. A spokesperson for Kroger said that while they have had Johnson & Johnson vaccines in the past, they are almost exclusively administering Moderna vaccines. They did not receive any Johnson & Johnson doses this week.

Local health departments are another provider of vaccines across the state. Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said she understands why someone might prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but she too recommends getting the first one that is available.

For those concerned about severe allergic reactions, Dr. Roberts said it is important to consult with a doctor.

“If people have a history of anaphylactic reactions, they should try to determine – working with their doctor or going back in history – what they have a reaction to,” Dr. Roberts said. “It's possible the Johnson & Johnson could have that product.”

Roberts said that if someone determines that a specific vaccine should be avoided, they should still be sure to inform the vaccine provider when they're getting their dose that they've had a reaction in the past, no matter which vaccine they get.

While Columbus Public Health has not administered many Johnson & Johnson vaccines so far, that is expected to change as it operates a regional mass vaccination site. Thousands of Johnson & Johnson doses are expected at these sites across the state.

On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine discussed the locations of mass vaccination clinics at 11 stationary sites and four mobile clinics.

“Locations will be primarily, depending on supply, but primarily we believe offering Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” DeWine said. “In some cases, they may be offering Pfizer or Moderna.”

When using the Columbus Public Health vaccine registration portal, users now have the choice of choosing Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson. According to their website, appointments on Monday, Wednesday and Friday will be for the Pfizer vaccine only, and appointments on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday will be for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only.

At The Wolstein Center Mass Vaccination Clinic in Cleveland, the state announced that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be offered during that clinic’s seventh and eighth weeks of operation.

It may soon become easier to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Production and distribution are ramping up, so there will be more doses in Ohio. Still, checking with specific providers is the only way to track it down and availability can't be guaranteed in every case.

Ohio's vaccine locator, Get The Shot, does not let users search by vaccine type. Other sites such as VaccineFinder.org do, however information about Ohio may not be completely up to date.

What questions do you have about COVID-19 and the vaccines? Ask below and WOSU may answer as part of our series A Year Of COVID.