Walker County moves forward with Moderna vaccination events as demand drops

Brian Blalock | SHSUDeborah Wynne-Hester, RN of the Sam Houston State University Student Health Center helps administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to community members. 

Once regarded as a favorable option for rural areas and younger demographics, the Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration have recommended a pause on the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday morning, due to a possible rare health risk.

The announcement was made after it was reported that six women were found to have developed an extremely rare type of blood clot in combination with low platelets shortly after receiving the vaccine.

Out of caution, Texas quickly joined several other sates Tuesday in suspending the use of the J&J vaccine, asking all distributors to reserve any allocations in storage, while the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices conducts further research.

Walker County will not be effected by the pause.

Previously, healthcare officials in the area had hoped to transition their vaccine distribution solely to Johnson & Johnson due to its one-and-done method being more accessible to the rural population of the area and its college demographic, however, the plan was unsuccessful.

“The county as a whole has gotten a relatively small allotment one time and has not gotten more Johnson & Johnson,” said Dr. Lane Aiena, director of Walker County COVID Medical Response. “There was a shortage anyways, due to the mix up at the factory, so we’ve been moving forward with the Moderna vaccine.”

“I don’t think they should be worried,” added Aiena, noting that the blood clots are extremely rare. So far, there are only reports of six people that are known to have been effected out of the over 6.8 million doses that have been administered. However, anyone that has received the J&J vaccine and is suffering from any severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of receiving the vaccine is advised to reach out to their physician immediately.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are both still considered safe to use, and the former will be used for future vaccination events at the Walker County Fairgrounds in May.

The Walker County Fairgrounds vaccination events were started by Aiena through Huntsville Family Medicine and his partnership with the Walker County Office of Emergency Management and Huntsville Memorial Hospital, to get shots in arms on a large scale to any who were immediately interested in receiving it. However, as the initial demand has been met, Aiena foresees tapering-off the events.

“We have noticed the demand start to drop at the events, which is good and bad,” Aiena said. “I would like to see a larger portion of the population get vaccinated, but we will definitely get to a point where it’s going to come down to patients talking to their doctors, and once we get to that point, the utility of the mass vaccination events is kind of going to start going away.”

Vaccinations will still be available in the area, efforts will just be focused on local clinics and medical providers who can participate in a one-on-one consultation for anyone with questions followed by the option to get the shot at that time.

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