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Davis, California

Friday, October 15, 2021

Yolo County pauses initiative distributing Johnson & Johnson vaccines to populations of individuals not currently housed in the area

Officials explain that the pause is a minor setback as individuals are given Pfizer or Moderna instead

Prior to April 13, when Yolo County reported that it was pausing the distribution of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines, it had been directing the J&J vaccines toward populations of individuals who are not currently housed in the area, including those experiencing homelessness, people who are homebound and agricultural workers.

Fourth & Hope is a Woodland organization that provides resources to individuals experiencing homelessness. Amara Pickens, its chief operations officer, said that the homeless facility is working with the county to set up an event to vaccinate its clients. As a part of this process, Fourth & Hope is providing COVID-19 tests to clients every Tuesday and is following COVID-19 protocols. 

“There were initially three vaccinated [individuals]—we have 54 clients at the moment,” Pickens said. “We’ve had another eight express an interest in signing up to get vaccinated. The County has reached out to us; we are planning a vaccination event for all of those that are interested in receiving the vaccine.”

Fourth & Hope staff can sign clients up through the normal process by facilitating appointments and assisting them with transportation, according to Pickens.

Pickens explained that the single-dose vaccine can be more convenient for individuals who are often moving from place to place.

“With our population being transient, there is a benefit potentially to a single-dose vaccine rather than a double dose,” Pickens said.

As of April 13, the J&J single-shot vaccine is no longer available, but individuals who are not currently housed in the area and other hard-to-reach populations will still be able to receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, according to Yolo County District Four Supervisor Jim Provenza. 

Provenza explained that sometimes these individuals do not come back for a second shot, so the county will prioritize outreach to ensure individuals receive both doses.

“We’ll just have to double our efforts to make sure they come in the second time that we have the vaccines,” Provenza said. “We’re going to continue to prioritize homeless and other hard-to-reach populations; that’s a major priority right now.”

Yolo County Public Information Officer Jenny Tan highlighted that the County has always considered populations of individuals not currently housed in the area in its vaccination plans, rather than just the people who can drive to attend an event. 

“We’re really thinking about equity, thinking about everyone in our community, not just those that can come to an event,” Tan said via email.

Since the J&J shots were put on hold, any J&J in the vaccine schedule (including those for individuals not currently housed in the area) will be replaced with either Pfizer or Moderna.

Although J&J is paused, Tan explained that it will not drastically impact Yolo County’s vaccine timeline.

“We only received about 795 J&J doses for this week,” Tan said via email. “What it does mean is that there is more work on the back end as we’ll need to do second dose appointments/clinics.” 

Provenza explained that although the County is receiving increasing amounts of the vaccinations, the exact number varies each week. 

Provenza described how Yolo County plans to ensure that hard-to-reach populations are not left out of the vaccination plans. 

“We’re going to make a special effort to get to the homeless people, continue with the farm worker population, continue with people who live in areas where they don’t have access to the internet, help people sign up,” Provenza said.

Tan encouraged people to continue signing up for vaccines following the blood-clotting cases. The J&J shot is a viral vector vaccine, which has been rigorously studied to be safe and effective. The viral vector technology has also been used in Ebola outbreaks and for molecular biology research.

“Vaccines, including J&J, have been shown to be overwhelmingly safe and effective at preventing COVID-19,” Tan said via email.

Provenza explained that although the risks for the J&J vaccine are very low, he believes that pausing its distribution was warranted. 

“It’s very unlikely that there’s going to be serious problems with anyone in our county,” Provenza said. “But having said that, it makes sense to pause.”
Written by: Ellie Lee — city@theaggie.org

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