A mass-vaccination event involving the first local use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has been announced for March 12-14 at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds’ Education building.
Novant Health Inc. requested and received the initial 9,000 J&J doses this week from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Staff from all three organizations will administer the single-dose J&J vaccine, which is the only one being used at the event.
“Johnson & Johnson doses were allocated to counties that indicated that they had the capacity to host additional events to use the vaccine,” DHHS said.
Novant is sharing the vaccine allocation with the Forsyth County Department of Public Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health.
The event is for all eligible members of Groups One to Three. That includes all frontline essential workers.
Appointments for the event are available at the county health department’s website at Bit.Ly/FCNCCovidVaccine, as well as by calling the department’s appointment call center Monday and Tuesday at 336-360-5260.
“The plan is to provide all of those doses over that weekend and divide them over 2½ days,” said Nikki Nissen, Novant’s chief nursing officer.
Each organization will continue to use Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at other times.
“We’re excited to have another tested, safe and effective vaccine available,” said Joshua Swift, the county health director. “This will be significant in our collective efforts to vaccinate the community and make sure everyone has access to the vaccine.
“We encourage everyone to get vaccinated when it is your turn for a vaccine, regardless of the type of vaccine that is available.”
Dr. Pam Oliver, president of Novant’s physician network, said having the one-dose vaccination is a “game changer.”
“We recognize that it can be difficult to take time off work, especially twice in a month.”
North Carolina received an initial allocation of 83,700 J&J doses.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health secretary, said Tuesday there will be no new allotments of the J&J vaccine next week, a likely limited supply in two weeks before a significant pickup in late March and early April that could exceed 80,000 weekly doses.
The Associated Press is reporting that nearly 4 million J&J doses began being shipped Sunday night. According to the Biden administration, that represents the entire stockpile of the doses.
J&J said it plans to deliver about 16 million more doses by March 31 and 100 million altogether by June 30.
The J&J vaccine became available Saturday after the Food and Drug Administration gave final approval of emergency use authorization — the same process that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines went through.
Two doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected to provide 95% effectiveness, compared with 70% to 75% effectiveness with one dose of J&J.
On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper said all essential frontline workers in Group Three can begin getting their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, rather than the initial projected date of March 10.
Cooper also approved a multi-phase approach for Group Four vaccinations that begins March 24 with individuals at higher risk from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions, as well as people in certain congregate-living settings.
The county health department said Wednesday it will not alter its appointments through at least Monday to accommodate the remaining individuals in Group Three.
Swift said the goal is to fulfill vaccination appointments made with the Group Three subgroup of K-12 teachers, other educational personnel and child-care staff, along with other individuals in Groups One and Two.
Swift said that 52% of Forsyth residents ages 75 and older have received their first dose, along with 47% of those ages 65 to 74.
The accelerated Group Three decision is projected to affect about 345,000 North Carolinians.
They include workers in food-processing and medical equipment manufacturing; food and agriculture supply chains; essential goods; government and community services; public health and social work; public safety, first responders and law enforcement; and transportation.
The initial Group Three vaccination subgroup covers 240,000 public, private and religious school teachers and other educators, including pre-K administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, Head Start program employees, and preschool and pre-K workers.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools has 8,327 employees, which includes substitute and contractors.
Swift said there are plans to vaccinate up to 1,000 WS/FCS teachers and other personnel this week.