Local health official on Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply and overall vaccine hesitancy

After speaking with Region 5 Medical Director Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh about resuming the shots locally, she says so far a few doses have been administered.

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - This week, health departments across the state are resuming the use of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine but the bigger question is, do people want it?

Several national polls suggest that the answer to that question is overwhelmingly negative.

After speaking with Region 5 Medical Director Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh about resuming the shots locally, she says so far a few doses have been administered. But the bigger battle remains in convincing those eligible to get vaccinated regardless of which one it is.

After an 11-day pause on the J&J vaccine, the shots are now rolling back out.

“The demand for J&J definitely seems to have decreased since the pause,” said Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh says although some are hesitant, others are falling right back in line.

”I do anticipate that we will have some people who J&J will be a good fit for going forward, but I also think that there are a lot of people that are just waiting to see how it’s going to go as we get back started,” said Cavanaugh

With supply now outpacing demand, Cavanaugh says it’s a far cry from where we were just a few months ago. But our area still faces a growing challenge.

”Region 4 and 5, which is the greater Lafayette and greater Lake Charles areas of Louisiana - on some surveys done show that we may have some of the highest hesitancy,” Cavanaugh said. “We’re going to have a lot of work ahead of us to work through that.”

Although hesitancy will more than likely remain an issue, Cavanaugh said she’s relieved the vaccine is available again and that it’s key to meeting the needs in rural areas.

”I still think that we can be reassured that these events are extremely rare, and we’re just in a challenging situation to explain that to the community.”

Just 22 percent of unvaccinated Americans in a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday said that they would be willing to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Almost three in four, 73 percent, said they were unwilling.

Slightly fewer than half of all the adults surveyed also said they consider the Johnson & Johnson vaccine very or somewhat safe.

Additionally, more than 7 in 10 respondents say they regard each of the other two vaccines that have been approved by the federal government, one by Moderna and another by Pfizer, to be very or somewhat safe.

”It’s a slow process from this point forward. I don’t think that we’re going to get back to a day where we’re doing 400 and 500 doses in a drive-thru setting from this point forward,” said Cavanaugh.

More than 1.1 million Louisianans have completed their vaccinations against COVID-19. So far, there have been around 85,000 Johnson and Johnson doses administered in Louisiana and no reported cases of the rare blood clot that prompted the vaccine’s suspension.

Cavanaugh says our area had just received a shipment of the J&J vaccine when the pause was initiated. Right now, Region 5 has about several thousand doses of the vaccine in its stockpile.

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