San Mateo County has received a shot in the arm to its COVID-19 vaccination allocations, with 10,000 doses per week through a federal program, county officials said on Friday. Its supplies could soon receive another boost now that federal authorities have lifted a temporary stay on the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration announced the April 23 removal of the "pause" on the vaccine's use. San Mateo County officials said on Friday they will follow all safety guidelines from the state and federal authorities. The county has 1,220 doses of Janssen/Johnson & Johnson on hand and will begin to integrate the vaccine back into its plans, a spokesman said on behalf of the county.
"The vaccine has been used for all populations generally and also for targeted populations such as homeless and homebound, where the benefits of needing to administer only one dose are significant," the county said in a statement.
The county has been hampered in its efforts to conduct mass vaccinations against the deadly virus due to small allocations from the state. San Mateo County’s vaccine distribution for use next week from the state/Blue Shield process is 14,390 doses -- 8,190 Pfizer and 6,200 Moderna -- an increase from previous weeks. Last week it had a total of 11,150 doses and 11,180 doses this week of both types of vaccine.
"Since our overall vaccine distribution numbers have been so small, with the J&J allotment even smaller (the distribution for use last week at the time of the pause was 500 doses), we won't know how significant a role the J&J vaccine will play in our operations until we see the numbers increase," the county said.
Dr. Anand Chabra, COVID-19 vaccination branch chief for San Mateo County Health, said county officials were excited to hear the news that the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices continues to recommend the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine for those 18 years of age and older.
"We plan to await the results from the evaluation by the Western States Scientific Safety Review and any further direction from the California Department of Public Health before resuming the use of J&J vaccine in our operations. In the meantime we will continue to develop plans for clinics that utilize the J&J vaccine,” Chabra said.
The federal agencies recommended the pause on April 13 after six women developed rare blood clots, or thrombosis involving the cerebral venous sinuses -- large blood vessels -- in the brain.
The stay was lifted after a thorough scientific review of the Janssen vaccine determined the benefits outweigh the risks, since a total of 15 women out of 6.8 million people given doses of the vaccine were adversely affected. All of the cases occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 59, with a median age of 37 years. Symptoms began between 6 and 15 days after vaccination, the CDC noted.
"We are confident that this vaccine continues to meet our standards for safety, effectiveness and quality," CDC and FDA officials said in a press release on Friday. The vaccine doses will come with a new warning label and a fact sheet that warns of the rare blood clots.
The decision on the Janssen vaccine comes on the heels of news that the county will receive the additional 10,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each week through a federal Health Resources and Services Administration program. The doses are being ordered by way of San Mateo Medical Center’s clinic status as a Federally Qualified Health Center.
These doses are in addition to the distribution the county receives weekly through the state/Blue Shield process. Counties, including San Mateo, have received limited allocations that don't meet the demand, health officials have said. The county has had to suspend operations at its mass-vaccination site at the San Mateo County Event Center due to the dwindling supply from the state in the last few weeks, Chabra told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The federal shipments and Janssen vaccines are enabling the county to reopen the mass vaccination site. San Mateo County's COVID-19 Vaccination Branch has sent out a notice that it will offer the Moderna vaccine at a drive-up clinic on April 28 from noon to 5 p.m. at the San Mateo Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Dr., San Mateo. Appointments are required and can be made at myturn.ca.gov.
The first of the federal shipments is set to arrive next week -- 1,170 Pfizer/BioNTech and 8,800 Moderna vaccines. They will go first to the San Mateo Medical Center which will use whatever they can administer in a week, the county said through a spokesman. The remaining doses would be transferred to the county Public Health Department for mass vaccinations and to target populations of homeless, farmworkers and residents of census tracts listed in the California Healthy Places Index as having less healthy community conditions such as low median income, less education completeness, and barriers to accessing health care, the county spokesman said.
Neighboring Santa Clara County received 300,000 doses from the same federal program on April 13, opening thousands of appointments. Regarding the Janssen vaccine, on Friday, Santa Clara County said in a statement that it "will follow guidance from the CDC and California Department of Public Health regarding the timelines and guidance for restarting use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine."
Santa Clara County has a population of 1.9 million and San Mateo County's population is just over 770,000, yet San Mateo County's vaccine allocations seem disproportionately smaller, David Canepa, board of supervisors president, said during Tuesday's meeting.
"It is astonishing to me that they can have mass-vaccination sites and walk-ups. I do not believe we are getting the allocations we deserve," he said.
Chabra said during the limited allocations, health officials focused on smaller community sites in targeted areas most disproportionately affected by the deadly virus.