About two-thirds of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines offered at state-run sites went unused this weekend, raising concerns that the 10-day pause recommended by U.S health agencies has exacerbated hesitancy in New Hampshire.
The state hoped to vaccinate 4,500 people when they opened up appointments last Tuesday but only about 1,589 were administered at the three locations – one at the former Sears building in Concord and two others in Nashua and Newington. This is a departure from New Hampshire’s last mass vaccination at the Loudon speedway where 12,000 shots were administered the weekend before the pause was announced.
This was the first time the state has offered the J&J vaccine since U.S. health agencies announced reports of potentially deadly blood clots in rare cases. The FDA resumed the vaccine 10 days after the pause, explaining that the risks of getting vaccinated outweighed the highly unlikely dangers – of the nearly 8 million people who have received the vaccine, only 15 have developed this blood-clotting issue.
Benjamin Vihstadt, a spokesperson for Gov. Chris Sununu, said the low number of administered doses this past weekend was undoubtedly caused by the pause.
“There is no doubt that the back and forth messaging out of Washington has contributed to the increased hesitation in receiving the J&J vaccine,” he said in a statement. “It was an unnecessary delay that has shaken consumer confidence in a safe and proven vaccine.”
Vihstadt said he hopes residents will become more comfortable with the vaccine in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, doses of the vaccines will be distributed from state-sites into the community to ensure no shots go to waste.
According to a recent poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, the primary reason residents were unlikely to get the shot was due to concerns about the safety of the vaccine. Some data from the same survey suggests that this pause has impacted how people perceive the one-dose shot, which was once the most popular of the three vaccines.
In March, 43 percent of respondents who had a vaccine preference said they wanted the Johnson and Johnson shot while other respondents were split between the Pfizer and Moderna shot. In April’s survey, shortly after the pause was announced, just 12 percent of the group said they wanted the Johnson & Johnson shot – instead, Pfizer became the preferred vaccine. However, most respondents said that even if their preferred brand was not available, they would opt to get vaccinated as soon as possible instead of waiting for their preference.
New Hampshire may also be reaching the end of its supply of willing residents – about 61 percent of Granite Staters are already at least partially vaccinated and, according to some estimates, 18 percent of residents have said they would almost certainly not sign up to be immunized.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been an important part of New Hampshire’s vaccination strategy. The state has used the vaccine, which is easily stored and requires only one dose, to immunize the state’s most hard to reach residents like homeless residents and bed-bound individuals. Despite the minor setback, New Hampshire remains in the top 10 fastest states to administer its vaccines.
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