Johnson and Johnson COVID vaccine pause will slow efforts of vaccinating those in rural communities

Health leaders are calling residents and will soon use mobile units as part of vaccination efforts

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The federal decision to temporarily pause the distribution of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has implications in every health district in the Commonwealth, especially the smaller ones who planned to use the convenient one-dose shot to vaccinate their hard-to-reach residents.

While the Mount Rogers and West Piedmont Health Districts were slow to receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, they had big plans for it.

“Transient populations, like migrant workers and others, who come through the area for temporary employment, it saves us the problem of having to track them down,” explained West Piedmont Health District spokeswoman Nancy Bell.

“Sometimes in the rural community, if you go offsite to a place, it may be harder for people to come back for a second shot,” explained Mount Rogers Health District Director Dr. Karen Shelton.

These two health districts cover the cities of Bristol, Galax and Martinsville, as well as Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Henry, Franklin, Patrick, Smyth, Washington and Wythe counties.

Another unique challenge they face is broadband access as people cannot pre-register online without internet access.

“I fear that people will take this as an excuse to say, ‘see the vaccine isn’t safe.’ My opinion on this is that this shows we’re doing our due diligence to keep people safe,” said Bell.

In the meantime, these health districts will continue hosting clinics, but with Pfizer and Moderna only.

They are also calling residents and soon will use mobile units to reach people right where they live.

“Nothing has been easy or straightforward. We have to take information as we get it. Then, proceed as safely as we can for our community,” stated Shelton.

For those signed up for the J&J clinic in Marion this weekend, Shelton said that will now be a Pfizer clinic.

There are several upcoming no-appointment-necessary clinics in the West Piedmont District coming up as well.

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Posted by West Piedmont Health District on Tuesday, April 13, 2021

About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.