RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Tens of thousands of doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are coming to North Carolina this week.
Not only is the new vaccine a single shot, but the Johnson & Johnson doses can also be stored in a refrigerator for months.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require freezing temperatures for storage.
Initially, state health officials said they thought North Carolina would get 30,000 to 60,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. It turns out they’re getting 83,700 doses.
“We were ecstatic about what that could look like,” said Ryan Jury, mass vaccination branch director for Wake County. “This is a real opportunity for us to vaccinate more vaccine-eligible individuals in the coming weeks.”
Health officials don’t know exactly how much this will move up the timeline of getting everyone vaccinated because the allotment of doses still changes on a weekly basis.
“These surges in doses allow us to offer (the) vaccine to that many more people and I think for that reason it’s encouraging to look at when we move through these groups,” said Jury.
A total of 11,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are going to Durham County Health, UNC Health and Wake County Public Health.
In an interview on CBS this morning, Johnson & Johnson’s CEO said they expect to get five times as many doses shipped by the end of the month.
“It’s going to be really important for people to get a shot as soon as they possibly can,” said Alex Gorksy, CEO of Johnson & Johnson.
Wake County Public Health officials said with all three vaccines, they could potentially vaccinate 17,000 people this week. That’s more than double the amount from last week.
“People ask us all the time, ‘What’s the best vaccine you can get?’ and honestly, it’s the vaccine that you can get,” said Jury.
The Wake County Public Health Department is receiving 5,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“One of the long-term goals of Wake County Public Health is making sure individuals have access to the vaccine countywide,” said Jury.
That is why Wake County reached out to all eligible vaccine providers in the county, like pharmacies, doctor’s offices and clinics. They’re offering to transfer small amounts of this week’s vaccine allotment to those providers, so they can also get started vaccinating people.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is easier to transfer since it doesn’t require ultra-cold storage and is just one shot.
“The intent was to build and bolster vaccine capacity here in Wake County,” said Jury.
Wake County Public Health has 11,000 appointments filled at their three sites for this week. They’re waiting to see when they receive the Johnson & Johnson shipment before making more plans.
“We don’t come up with plans for what to do with our doses until it has arrived on our porch necessarily,” said Jury.
Health officials said they may not use their vaccine doses received this week but will by next week.
Although officials say it’s great news to get so many doses this week, that doesn’t mean it’ll become a pattern.
“Supply does still seem very much limited even though the state did receive additional doses,” said Jury.