John Santistevan is helping vaccinate communities one shot at a time.
“Our mission is to provide services to lower income, underserved, ethnic populations,” he said.
Since the vaccines became available, his team at Salud Family Health Centers has administered about 70,000 COVID-19 shots.
They were planning on giving out 1,000 Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine shots next week. That plan is in limbo now after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised Americans to pause using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with authorities investigating health concerns tied to the J&J shot, including blood clots.
“Naturally, we’re suspending those clinics for right now, seeing if any further guidance comes out by the end of the week,” Santistevan said.
Johnson & Johnson released a statement saying federal health officials are, “reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases out of more than 6.8 million doses administered.”
“This is a needle in the haystack issue,” said William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and an advisor to the CDC on immunization practices.
Schaffner says this pause on the J&J vaccine could impact communities nationwide.
“This sort of news will make hesitant people perhaps a little more hesitant,” he said. “And we’ll have to keep talking with them, assuring them about the vaccine safety.”
Schaffner says whatever results are found during this federal investigation, he hopes it doesn’t stop people from still getting protection from COVID-19 by getting one of the other approved vaccines on the market.
“Everyone who is eligible for vaccine, pleased come forward, roll up your sleeve, get vaccinated,” he said.
As Salud Family Health Centers continue to help communities get vaccinated, this investigation is causing them to focus on other options.
“We were really looking to use the J&J for those instances where it may be more difficult to get that second Moderna shot scheduled,” Santistevan said, adding they’ll adjust one shot at a time.
“We just don’t want to lessen the number of individuals we are vaccinating,” he said.