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Johnson & Johnson Vaccine To Arrive In NC This Week

Employees with the McKesson Corporation scan a box of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine while filling an order at their shipping facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., Monday, March 1, 2021.
Timothy D. Easley

More than 80,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson are arriving in North Carolina this week. State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says the doses should start arriving this Wednesday.

The shipment of the newly authorized single-dose vaccine is in addition to the 150,000 weekly doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Some news outlets report that Wake County could receive an allocation of 5,200 doses of the new vaccine.

Rachel Roper is a virologist at East Carolina University's medical school. She says the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is slightly lower than what's been reported for the other two, but its trials included people in South Africa and South America, where more contagious variants have been spreading.

“So, the Johnson & Johnson (vaccine) might be better, might be more effective,” Roper said. “But we don't have a direct comparison between the two. I would encourage anyone to get any vaccine they can.”

At least one case involving the South African variant has been identified in North Carolina.

Still, Roper says the new vaccine is safe, and should help the state inoculate people more quickly.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested differently from the other two vaccines that have been approved,” Roper said. “It was also tested in South Africa and South America, so it already has some safety data against the variants that were circulating in those countries at the time.”

The state health department would not yet say how it intends to distribute the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And it's not clear whether those shipments will remain consistent as the state prepares to open up eligibility to more frontline essential workers next week.

The influx of doses comes a week after teachers became eligible to get the vaccines.

Next week, on March 10, a federally supported COVID-19 vaccination center is set to open in Guilford County and will be capable of administering about 21,000 doses per week.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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