With the announcement that Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the federal government, a lot of people are wondering if that’ll impact local efforts to get people vaccinated.  Calhoun County Health Officer Eric Pessel says he doesn’t expect to see any of the new vaccines in the beginning but says it could be a valuable addition to the current Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“At this point, we’ll take any vaccine we can get,” said Pessell.  “But I haven't heard any updates over the weekend on what we could expect.”


According to Fox News, the new vaccine can be stored longer and at much higher temperatures.  Clinical trials showed the other vaccines to be about 25% more effective, but the biggest difference is that the new vaccine only requires one shot.

Could the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be targeted to particular populations?

Pessell says he has discussed that question with his counterparts in the Kalamazoo County Health Department.  “We’re thinking that this vaccine could be a good option for our homeless population,” said Pessell.   Officials have a difficult time contacting the homeless and tracking them.  “It would be an ideal vaccine for them because it's so difficult to be able to have them come back three weeks later.  If we can get a hold of them one time and give them a vaccine to protect them up to at least say 85% or something, that's a job well done there.”

Could there be other advantages to the J&J vaccine?

“Yes.  Some of the studies on Johnson and Johnson show it has an even a higher efficiency when we're talking about severe disease, and therefore, hospitalizations.”

What’s the status of vaccination efforts in Calhoun County?

“So far, the health department has administered about 15,000 doses.  There were quite a few given last week. All of our school workers who wanted a vaccine have received at least one shot.  We also were able to hold some large second-dose clinics as citizens were ready for their follow-up shots.  This week we're going to have some more second-dose clinics. And at the end of the week, we've got two large mass clinics.  We also had our very first micro clinic last week, where we went into the African American community in Battle Creek and were able to get just about 200 vaccinated.”

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Who is the priority to receive vaccines right now in Calhoun County?

“We're still at 65 and older.  We are scheduling for our mass clinics, 65 and older.  We are scheduling the daycare centers too. This week we're going to get most, if not all of our daycare centers.

What about food service industry workers?

Pessell says he knows they are eligible, but the County has not started vaccinating food service workers, which would include cereal plant employees.  “They're certainly on our radar.  I would expect it to be sometime this month, maybe towards the latter end and with the limited vaccine supply.”

What is the situation with vaccine supply to Calhoun County?

“Well, the good thing is that we now get a three-week advance notice on what to expect.  But we're not receiving any more than what we have been at this point.  At least we know that we're not going to receive less.  For the next three weeks, we expect to get about the same amount of vaccine that we had been getting.  After that, we believe it's going to start to increase substantially and we should be able to bring in even more providers and other places that would be able to give the vaccine.  We’re starting to see some of our large pharmacies being able to give the vaccine now, and I would expect to see even more of that.

How are we doing with new cases and hospitalizations in Calhoun County?

Pessell says hospitalizations are holding steady at around 10-12 in the County.    “We're averaging about 20 to 23 new cases a day. So they're holding steady. I would like to see them start to even get further down and I'm hoping that that will happen.  Everybody needs to remember that we're not out of the woods yet. We've got to stay strong and make sure we're wearing a mask and stay socially distant.”

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

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