The Champaign Health District received its first “dose” of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, and Health Commissioner Gabe Jones could not have been more pleased.
“We keep hearing that vaccine production is ramping up, but this is the first week we have seen the fruits of that,” he said. “We have been running clinics and with all the logistical hoops we’ve had to jump through and vaccine shortages and everything else, it will be much easier with the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.”
Prior to Tuesday, the Health District only had the Pfizer and Moderna double-dose vaccines. The single-dose option helps Jones and the Health District meet its goal: “Vaccinating a large number of people in a short period of time.”
Still, Jones cautions that supply remains low considering the number of people 65 years old and older, as well as others currently qualifying for the vaccine, who have registered by visiting the district’s website or by calling the district at 937-653-0110.
More than 7,500 have registered with the Health District for vaccines and thousands have received the shots. Until Thursday, only people at least 65 years old and those in special categories were to have registered, although Jones said ineligible younger people have registered. He added that their registrations are on hold.
“We want to get most, if not all, of the 65-and-up registrations done before we commit to a younger group,” he said.
The vaccine process started with those 80 and older and has progressed younger and younger by increments of five years.
On Thursday, people age 60 and up can register, as well as pregnant women, day-care workers, police officers and certain other groups.
Jones said the emphasis will be remain on older, more vulnerable residents.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience,” he said, adding that not all those at least 65 who are registered have been notified for vaccine appointments yet.
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He said those in that age group who have not registered but want the vaccine should call the Health District at 937-653-0110.
Jones asks that people also call that number if they are registered, but have received the vaccine elsewhere or have decided not to be vaccinated.
“Our hope is to clean up the registration list,” he said.
Currently, Kroger and the Health District are the only providers in the county giving vaccines, with Urbana Hospital giving dosages it receives to the Health District.
Jones said he knows of at least three other providers in the county seeking vaccine dosages.
“The more the merrier,” he said of vaccine providers. “Every day, we’re getting closer to getting this pandemic behind us.”
As for people preferring one vaccine over another, Jones said vaccines have been so limited, that there has not been the luxury of choice.
“All the vaccines getting emergency approval are effective and highly safe,” he said, adding that most people are simply happy to be getting a vaccine.
“Some people state a preference and we make a note of it when they register, and if we only have another vaccine, they won’t be contacted (for that clinic),” he said.
Supplies may be improving, but Jones doesn’t recommend demanding one vaccine over another. The supply is not that good at present, he said.
As for those who choose to refuse any particular vaccine at a clinic, Jones said the vaccine will not be wasted.
“We have a stand-by list,” he said. “We never want any vaccine to go to waste. If vaccines are left over, we’ll go to the stand-by list.”
Jones reminds vaccine seekers that they do not need insurance at Health District COVID-19 vaccine clinics.
He also cautions anyone in isolation or quarantine due to COVID concerns not to attend clinics.
Reach Kathy Fox at 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.