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Officials: Availability of Single-Dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Is Crucial for Homebound Residents

FILE - This July 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine in Belgium. The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two.(Johnson & Johnson via AP, File)

MOUNDSVILLE — Last week’s green light for the Johnson & Johnson one-dose COVID-19 vaccine got local health officials talking of its benefits and applications, now that one shot is enough to inoculate a person.

Early in the week, Marshall County Threat Preparedness Director Mark Ackermann expressed optimism that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be particularly useful in a specific application — inoculating homebound residents who could not easily come to vaccination clinics. Ackermann said there was talk of coordinating with Marshall County Emergency Management Service to distribute the vaccine that way.

“I think that is one of the goals of the state right now is to use Johnson & Johnson for the homebound, so we’re only needing to go into a house once,” Ackermann said. “The thing is, what we’re looking at is the detachment with EMS locally, so that we can get those things done. (Director of Emergency Management Tom Hart) was talking with the county about getting EMS to assist us in going out and getting this completed with these folks.”

Ackermann wasn’t immediately sure how many homebound individuals resided in Marshall County, but that at the state level there was a council which was developing a list of eligible residents.

The vaccine’s less strict handling requirements, such as requiring only simple refrigeration and not needing dilution, made the J&J vaccine an attractive option.

“These people’s families won’t have to try to pull them out of their house, when we could hopefully have a more stabilized, transportable vaccine,” Ackermann said.

“With these other two, you have very time-limited dosing, once you open the vials and do anything with it.

“Hopefully Johnson and Johnson will be enough from the stability standpoint that we’ll have enough time to send EMS and our staff to get these folks vaccinated.”

As of Thursday, Ackermann said the county had not obtained clearance from the state to carry out these EMS-assisted vaccinations. He also said the county had not yet received any of the one-dose vaccine, but it was speculated that some could arrive this week.

Vaccine distribution to the many remote residents of Marshall County, however, remains a sticking point. Ackermann said that there are simply not a plethora of good sites to establish a clinic; so far, the Marshall County Fairgrounds has been the central location for vaccination efforts.

“The biggest issue right now is just finding where you can do something like that — you just don’t have facilities out in the rural parts of the county to open a clinic,” he said. “That makes it a little rougher, and we’re trying to find the logistics to set up a clinic.”

Space requirements for vaccination clinics are a prime concern, not just due to lines, but for people needing to wait around 15 minutes after their shot to ensure there are no serious harmful side effects.

“We’re trying to figure out now, going forward, someday, where could we go in, say, Dallas to set something up? We’ve struggled to find even locations for testing, which is a smaller event. If you look at the community of Dallas, there’s almost nowhere to set a tent up. You have to look at, where are all these cars going to be sitting?

“Those are the things we have to look at, in terms of where we can set up, get traffic off the roads, and you have that 15- to 30-minute wait afterwards. We’ve got to find places where we can do something like that, and it’s a real struggle when you’re talking these local communities.”

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