More than 1,000 homebound San Diegans are still waiting for their COVID-19 vaccinations, and with the “pause” of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they could be waiting a while longer.
Sharp, Tri-City, and Palomar hospitals have paused their vaccination programs for homebound seniors in anticipation that the J&J one-dose vaccines will be cleared by the FDA for use.
Cal Fire’s Operation Collaboration is moving forward to vaccinate people who can’t leave their homes but has been forced to substitute the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require two doses and can be much more complicated.
Palomar Medical Center's chief medical officer, Dr. Omar Khawaja, told NBC 7 that delivering two doses isn’t twice as difficult for medical teams, it's five to 10 times more difficult due to temperature controls, the expiration of the vaccines and how stable it is after it's drawn up by a pharmacist are all factors to consider, Khawaja said.
Khawaja said Palomar’s home medical crews won’t wait long for the J&J vaccine, however.
“I think we would give it maybe another week or so," Khawaja said. "We will start to activate secondary plans that would include using Pfizer and Moderna for our home health patients.”
Tri-City Medical Center, which recently signed an agreement to help vaccinate seniors in North County, hasn’t begun to vaccinate homebound seniors yet. It's chief external affairs officer, Aaron Byzak sent the following message to NBC 7: “Tri-City Medical Center is proud to partner with the county of San Diego to provide vaccinations for homebound seniors in our community. Seniors can add their name to the list by calling 211 San Diego. We anticipate ramping it up in the coming days, contingent upon vaccine supply.”
Although the J&J pause has slowed down homebound seniors’ access to vaccinations, Khawaja said the risk of contracting COVID-19 is dropping quickly as more people get vaccinated and we get closer to herd immunity.
The Centers for Disease Control DC and Food and Drug Administration are set to meet Wednesday to decide their next steps for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.