BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - While the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is on pause, state health officials are trying to give providers other product to use to keep vaccinations going.
“We’re trying to get people to use Pfizer vaccine,” State health officer Dr. Scott Harris said. “We have plenty of Pfizer. We have some Pfizer that’s not even ordered from the feds. We have some Pfizer that’s sitting on some of our sites and we’re going to encourage some of our providers to use Pfizer.”
The state has more than 300 Johnson and Johnson providers, but not all of them can administer Pfizer. J&J only requires a refrigerator, while Pfizer needs an extra cold freezer for long term storage. It can also be short stored in a vaccine freezer for a few weeks.
“I think it will be a balance of trying to get enough product out to entities who could store this in a freezer and hopefully use it within a couple of weeks,” Dr. Karen Landers said.
Pfizer only comes in quantities of 1,200, and Dr. Scott Harris said if that much vaccine is being short stored, it could lead to waste.
“There are a lot of places that can give a few hundred doses in a couple weeks, but probably can’t give 1200 doses,” Harris said. “I think as long as we have the excess of Pfizer that we have, I think we’re willing to tolerate a little bit of waste.”
While the state is okay with a little waste, they are trying to avoid it. Dr. Karen Landers said through the state, providers can move vaccines to other providers who can give it out faster. She said the state can also request less vaccine from the government if needed.
“Entities watch what they have on hand, so if it appears they are having a temporary situation of less uptake, then we can pause their shipment,” Landers said.
Landers said they are trying to keep as many vaccine providers open as possible, while limiting the amount of vaccine waste.
“If we get several hundred people out of a box of Pfizer, that’s better than the entire box just sitting in the freezer somewhere,” Harris said.
Landers said starting sometime next month, Pfizer is set begin sending smaller quantities to the state, meaning the product can go to providers will a smaller customer base or slower demand for the vaccine.