NEWLAND — Avery County has paused the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the subsequent mobile vaccination clinic that was planned for Wednesday, April 21, at Lees-McRae College.
“We’re following the recommendation of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and suspending the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until further notice,” County Manager Phillip Barrier said.
The county will continue with its administration of the Moderna vaccine through its vaccination clinic at the Avery County Agriculture Extension from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 22. Vaccines are available to anyone 16 years of age and older in North Carolina. Second doses of the vaccine will also be available at the clinic on Thursday, April 22, at the same place and during the same times.
Additionally, the county is still following through with its mobile vaccination clinic planned for Thursday, May 20, at Linville Land Harbor (22 Land Harbor Plaza in Newland) from 9 a.m to noon, and at Elk River Club (15 Clubhouse Drive in Banner Elk) from 1 to 4 p.m. The Moderna vaccine will be administered at the mobile clinic.
In order to make an appointment to receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, call (828) 733-8273 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Those receiving their second dose must show up to the clinic at the location and time specified on the white vaccine card they are given after receiving their first shot. Those who need to reschedule their appointment to receive the second dose can do so by calling the Avery County Health Department at (828) 733-6031.
The pause in the administration of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes after six serious adverse reactions to the vaccine were recorded nationwide, including one death. The NCDHHS recommended on Tuesday, April 13, that providers pause the administration of the vaccine out of an abundance of caution. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recommended halting the use of the vaccine. None of the adverse reactions to the J&J vaccine were recorded in North Carolina.
“Today’s announcement shows that we have a robust safety system in place and that that system is working to identify any concerns,” NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said Tuesday. “The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines remain safe and effective.”
The news of the six cases of adverse side effects comes after approximately 250,000 doses of the J&J vaccines have been administered in North Carolina, with about 6.8 million doses of the vaccine being given nationwide. Specifically, the cases involved an extremely rare type of blood clot in conjunction with low platelets occurring in women between the ages of 18 and 48 who experienced symptoms six to 13 days after receiving the dose. Much minor side effects, such as flu-like symptoms are common after receiving a vaccine.
As of April 19, Avery County has administered 6,110 first doses of the vaccine and 4,949 second doses, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services data. Avery County has currently fully vaccinated 28.2 percent of its approximately 17,000 official residents, while at least 34.8 percent of residents are partially vaccinated.
Barrier said that the county is looking to begin slowing down its vaccine clinics after experiencing decreases in demand for the vaccine, which is also occurring across the state. Moreover, the state will stop shipping out set allotments of the vaccine and will instead send out specific amounts requested by the counties.
“We’ve done really well,” Barrier said. “(Demand has) slowed down across the state. I think we’ll see another surge sometime in the late fall, and we may have to go back to the Ag Center and do some more of 300-, 400- and 500-dose days but we’ll see what happens. When we have demand, we will meet the need.”
The slowdown also comes as more local providers have been gaining access to the vaccines. Outside of the health department, places that have access to the vaccine include Crossnore Drug, CVS Pharmacy, High Country Community Health, Avery Pharmacy and Walgreens, as well as providers in the surrounding region.
For a full list of local vaccine providers, click to myspot.nc.gov. Provider access to vaccines may vary based on demand and availability.
Statewide, a total of 2,604,068 second-dose vaccines have been administered, while 3,609,927 first doses have been administered. Additionally, 252,731 single-shot vaccines have been administered and a total of 6,466,726 shots have been administered overall.