State to pause use of J & J vaccine
By Natalie Johnson
Okanogan County is among the best-vaccinated counties in eastern Washington.
As of Monday, the county had given 25,896 doses of a COVID-19 vaccination, with 15,300 people receiving at least one dose and 12,059 fully vaccinated.
With 35.8% of its population receiving at least one dose and 28.2% fully vaccinated, Okanogan county is beating the state averages of 32.68% and 20.85%, respectively.
“We are actually within Okanogan County doing very well,” said Maurice Goodall, director of emergency management for the county, speaking about the county’s centralized COVID-19 registration platform.
When vaccinations began in January, each provider offering the shots had separate registration processes, which caused confusion and overlapping work, he said. About three weeks ago, the county debuted its centralized portal, run through the same program — but using completely separate data — as the county’s emergency notification system.
“What this system is doing, it’s allowing us to lessen the man hours that it takes to find people and get them registered,” Goodall said.
He noted that being signed up for the emergency notifications does not mean you’re signed up for a vaccine.
The number of people signing up for vaccines each week has varied considerably. The week of March 15, 881 people signed up, compared with 384 the week of March 22, 657 the week of March 29 and 402 between April 5 and 12.
Supply and demand
North Valley Hospital District CEO John McReynolds reported that the county’s three hospitals together with Confluence Health, Family Health Centers, emergency services providers and pharmacies are able to deliver more than 1,000 vaccines per week. He added that 766 patients are currently signed up and waiting for a shot.
“North Valley Hospital is vaccinating every day this week and multiple other providers will be pulling patients from this same list offering Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines at various locations throughout the county,” McReynolds said. “We have built a lot of capacity and most providers are well stocked with vaccines right now.”
On Tuesday (April 13), the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced it would pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine statewide starting immediately, following advice from the federal government after receiving reports of serious blood clots and low platelet counts in six patients, all women under 50, according to the DOH.
About 149,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Washington so far, and the DOH reported that it is unknown if any of the six reported cases were in the state.
“For those who got the vaccine more than a month ago, the risk of this complication is very low at this time,” according to the DOH. “People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health provider.”
The FDA has reported that the probable cause of the clots is a rare immune response to the vaccine, according to the DOH, but a definitive cause has not been discovered.
The county’s system selects people for vaccine clinics based on the information they input into the system and the criteria provided by whatever organization is operating a vaccine event. For example, patients within the current phase of vaccine distribution get first priority, but if there are more vaccines than eligible patients, people who have signed up but are outside the current vaccination phase are given a shot as well, Goodall explained.
Despite that, an Aero Methow vaccination over the weekend still had more shots than patients, he added.
“We were still shy of the target that they wanted, but that’s how it goes,” he said.
During the week of April 11, Washington was expected to receive 386,810 total doses of all three approved vaccines, 355,980 the week of April 18 and 356,940 the week of April 25.
Per an order from Gov. Jay Inslee, all adults in Washington will be eligible to get their vaccine on Thursday (April 15). Local health organizations are urging residents to sign up at okanogancountycovid19.org or by calling 1-866-458-0169.
While the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only approved for patients over 18, the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for 16- and 17-year-olds, who will also be eligible for a vaccine April 15, though they may need consent from a parent or guardian, according to the state Department of Health.
Last week, Pfizer reported it was expanding its clinical trials for children 12 to 17 years old, and Moderna is studying the effects of its vaccine on children in two groups — 6 months to 11 years old and ages 12 to 17.