Crater Health District quickly pivots to get people vaccinated following J&J pause

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PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia announced on Tuesday it would pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after an advisory from federal agencies.

Dr. Alton Hart, Crater Health Districts Director, said after the announcement this morning, they began telling people in line at the Tabernacle Baptist Church they would be getting Moderna instead of J&J. At the same time, he said organizers went into their computer system and changed official appointments from J&J to Moderna.

“We’re just so appreciative of being able to have in our inventory the Moderna that allowed us to really pivot today,” Dr. Hart said. “Otherwise, we would have really had a challenge.”

He said the clinic set aside 1,000 J&J doses for today’s clinic, which was for people with appointments and walk-ins.

However, Jay Baxter, Acting Chief operations officer for Crater Health Districts, said he doesn’t expect all 1,000 Moderna shots to be used. The Crater District leaders said the team will be meeting later Tuesday to discuss how they will carry out upcoming vaccine clinics.

“This is a huge blow because we saw the use of the J&J as a significant opportunity to really increase our vaccination efforts here — so this is very concerning for our vaccination efforts,” Dr. Hart said. “This has been a really important part of our inventory so it really will impact us the rest of this week. We had a lot of events that we were planning to conduct this week related to the Johnson & Johnson.”

Dr. Hart said it’s too soon to tell exactly how this will impact the rest of Phase 1 and moving into Phase 2. That said, the district won’t be delaying moving into Phase 2.

“We have Pfizer, we have Moderna and we will make use of those vaccines to make sure that we’re able to get all of our community members vaccinated,” he said.

Dr. Hart added that they don’t plan to cancel any vaccination clinics this week.

“We should have enough Moderna and Pfizer,” he said.

Later Tuesday, Crater’s Public Information Officer, Tara Rose, said just the district’s mobile units have been paused. She said other events will go on as scheduled.

Louise Coggins went to the Tabernacle vaccination event with her heart set on a Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday. “That’s what I came to receive,” she said. Even after hearing that six U.S. women are reporting severe blood clots, her mind hadn’t changed.

“I was gonna try to slide through and not be one of the six,” she told 8News. Coggins soon realized that wasn’t an option. “I decided to leave because I just wanted the one shot,” she said.

However, her granddaughter eventually changed her mind and Coggins went back to the church. “I said I wasn’t gonna take it but I’m glad I did.”

Some distributors pivoted to other vaccines quicker than others.

“I sat down, got the shot, plain and simple,” said Sam Lewis, from Richmond. Lewis said he got a Johnson & Johnson shot at a chesterfield Walmart about a half hour after federal agencies recommended they be pulled.

“It’s a really low chance anything bad happens to me. [I’m] just glad I was able to get it today and don’t have to wait and go through the whole process and set up another appointment,” he said.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates.

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