By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Vaccine providers in Hoke County continue offering appointments to any adult who wishes to get vaccinated against COVID-19, though one vaccine won’t be available while federal health agencies investigate six reports of an “extremely rare,” but serious reaction possibly linked to it.
The single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine came under scrutiny this week after six women in the United States suffered a “rare and severe” type of blood clot, about a week to two weeks after being vaccinated with the single-dose shot, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a joint statement Tuesday recommending that the United States pause using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while health experts investigate the situation.
“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” the statement said.
The adverse reactions “appear to be extremely rare,” according to the agencies. Providers have given more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to people in the United States, with the vast majority of people not experiencing any serious reactions. But the appearance of even six cases out of 6.8 million doses given was enough to cause the CDC to call a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), set for Wednesday, to review the information.
At least two COVID-19 vaccine providers in Hoke confirmed this week they have paused offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Most providers in Hoke County have been, and continue offering the two-dose Moderna vaccine. Some local providers have also offered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, including at single-day walk-in clinics.
The Hoke County Health Department stopped offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday due to the CDC and FDA’s recommendation, but the department hasn’t seen any serious reactions among people vaccinated here, Health Department Director Helene Edwards said.
“We are continuing to vaccinate individuals 18 and older with Moderna vaccine doses. We have not (seen) any adverse side effects reported from either J & J or Moderna vaccines, but we are monitoring calls, messages, and emails for public comments about potential problems with vaccines,” Edwards wrote in an email Tuesday morning.
Cape Fear Valley Health also announced Tuesday it would pause using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Following new guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cape Fear Valley Health is cancelling this week’s two scheduled walk-in clinics for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The health system’s other vaccine clinics, which offer the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines, remain open and are taking appointments,” the healthcare system said in a statement.
“While the CDC and FDA monitor this evolving concern, out of an abundance of caution, we are pausing the two Johnson and Johnson clinics that we had scheduled for this week,” Chris Tart, PharmD, Cape Fear Valley Health Vice President of Professional Services said in a statement. “This has no effect on our other clinics offering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.”
The full schedule of Cape Fear Valley Health’s vaccine clinics can be found at www.capefearvalley.com/covid19.
Where to get the shot
The Hoke County Health Department is offering the Moderna vaccine for anyone 18 or older. For appointment information, go to www.readyhoke.org. The Hoke County Health Department is located at 683 E. Palmer Street in Raeford.
Cape Fear Valley Health is offering the vaccine for people 16 and up, but not all locations have the Pfizer vaccine for 16 and 17-year-olds. The Hoke location offers the Moderna vaccine for people age 18 and up. The provider is also offering vaccine appointments at some of its other locations outside Hoke. To view availability, visit www.capefearvalley.com/COVID19. The Cape Fear Valley Hoke Pharmacy is located at 300 Medical Pavilion Drive, Suite 100, in Hoke County.
FirstHealth is offering the vaccine to anyone 16 and up, but not all locations have the Pfizer vaccine for 16 and 17-year-olds. A parent or guardian must call 910-715-7468 to register a minor for a vaccine appointment, and must accompany the teen to the appointment.
The provider is also offering vaccine appointments at some of its other locations outside Hoke. To view availability, visit www.firsthealth.org/shot or call (910) 715-SHOT. FirstHealth Hoke hospital campus is located at 6408 Fayetteville Road.
Hoke continued to see generally stable numbers of new COVID-19 cases over the last week, with 96 new cases over the last 14 days, including 47 cases over the last seven days. The county has seen a total of 4,441 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), including 55 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
As of April 12, more than 7,500 people in Hoke County have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 5,600 people in the county are considered fully vaccinated. That represents about 13.6 percent of the population with at least one dose, and over 10 percent who have been fully vaccinated.
On the state’s County Alert System, Hoke remains in the yellow category for “significant impact.” Some counties have dropped even lower, causing officials to add new, lower tiers to the alert system: moderate impact, and low impact.
Only one county, Alleghany County, is in the green, but as of April 12, no North Carolina counties were in the red. Several remain orange, with “substantial” community spread of coronavirus.
Health officials continue to urge people to wear a mask and wait six feet apart in public, and practice good hand washing – even after they are vaccinated – to try and help stop the spread of the illness.