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COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Grows To Meet Huge Demand

Photo by Scott McCloskey Carol Moscato, a retired registered nurse of Bellaire, administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a recent clinic at the Ohio County Health Department’s vaccine site set up at The Highlands.

WHEELING — With the recent approval of a third COVID-19 vaccine, a one-shot inoculation developed by Johnson & Johnson, a local health leader is glad to see the supply increase to meet the overwhelming demand.

Howard Gamble, health administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, said the third vaccine would, naturally, allow more doses to be kept on hand for distribution. However, he pointed out that logistics of administering the dose would mean the county would need to account for it alongside the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“It’s good that it’s approved,” Gamble said Monday. “When you have an additional vaccine for a virus that we have just about everybody 16-and-up asking for, the challenging part is that we have a new vaccine, it’s very different, and all three cannot be used (interchangeably).

“It’s going to be a little challenging going forward: how and when do we use this vaccine?” he continued. “With (other diseases) we have multiple vaccines, multiple manufacturers, so you always have a supply. With an additional vaccine, we have additional supply for the demand, which is very, very high right now.”

Gamble also commented that it doesn’t matter which brand of vaccine is ultimately made available to any given patient — it’s all worth getting.

“Today is a Moderna clinic, and tomorrow is Moderna. Wednesday-Thursday-Friday is Pfizer,” he said. “You don’t have too much choice. You get called, you get scheduled, you get the vaccine. Now with the third one, we may have to follow that same format: We have a vaccine available to you, and you have options — you can (choose to) not get it and reschedule. But we’re pretty close to that. If you have a product available to you to protect you, you have to get it.”

Gamble said the discussion among public health officials was now on determining who got the one-dose shot, the benefits and drawbacks compared to the two-dose vaccines, and the ease of transportation.

“Is it, we’re supplied the vaccine and we just use it within the clinic?” he said. “A lot of discussion needs to be held on how we utilize this, if it’s for specific groups, a targeted group within the state, or if we just incorporate it into our vaccine clinics.

“There’s some ethical decisions on how to utilize this one-dose vaccine versus a two-dose, and scheduling,” he continued. “One dose is wonderful, but it has some benefits, it has some drawbacks. So do Moderna and Pfizer. We haven’t used it yet, so we don’t have a lot of people who are saying ‘Here’s my symptoms.’ We anticipate it will be the standard one-day symptoms you get with the vaccine.”

Beyond the relative benefits and drawbacks of the different vaccines, however, Gamble emphasized that the biggest boon was that the county now had a third supplier to draw vaccines from, either through the county’s vaccine clinics or through hospitals and local pharmacies. The greater availability in supply, he said, translates to more widespread protection, and therefore fewer incidences of disease, which can be more easily managed.

“We’re really excited,” he said. “Knowing that it was approved this weekend, and that we could see this vaccine as soon as this week, we’re kind of excited. We also know we have some challenges ahead of us — how to use this, where to use it, and who to use it with, and I think that’s going to take some public health discussion this week as to how we use it appropriately in the Mountain State.”

Gamble did point out that since most days of the week are already occupied distributing the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the J&J vaccine wouldn’t enable another day to be used to deliver vaccinations, potentially leading to some backup on the county’s end while clinics are scheduled. However, the vaccine only requiring one dose, and thus one appointment, was a point in its favor.

“It’s not so much that we can do more clinics, we can just expand the clinics,” he said. “We can only do so many. We’re up there every day from (8 a.m.) or so into the late afternoon. It just means we’ll be able to add a few more people into the clinic. … We’re always very careful to make sure individuals coming in who got Moderna get Moderna, and those who got Pfizer get Pfizer.”

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