DOE employees receive state’s first Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hundreds of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccines were administered to Department of Education (DOE) employees at a clinic in Kaneohe on Friday.

The vaccination clinic on March 5 was run by the Department of Health (DOH) Behavioral Health Administration at the Windward Comprehensive Health Center.

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“It is gratifying to see that so many people recognize the benefits this new vaccine offers,” State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said in a news release. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is similar to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in that they are all highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death, but different because Johnson & Johnson is a single-shot regimen.”

DOE employee Kristi Dudoit received her Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, March 5. (Courtesy: Department of Health)

Hawaii’s first shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines arrived on Wednesday, March 3. DOH soon sent emails to DOE employees who had expressed an interest in being vaccinated.

“The invitation had links allowing people to sign up for this clinic today or for a Moderna clinic here next week,” said Dr. Amy Curtis, DOH Adult Mental Health Division Administrator. “We had almost 500 people sign up for Johnson & Johnson in a day and a half. We are glad there is so much interest.”

Angel Ramos, Vice Principal at Kalakaua Middle School, was the first in Hawaii to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“I watched (Dr. Anthony) Fauci on TV.  He said that all three are good,” Ramos said. “So, I did not hesitate to take it.”

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine provides about 72% protection from COVID-19, whereas Moderna and Pfizer are over 90%.

DOE employee Brian Hammond received his Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, March 5. (Courtesy: Department of Health)

“I think the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is your safest bet to just get it done, be done with the process, and feel a whole lot better about facing your kids,” said Brian Hammond, a teacher’s assistant at Barber’s Point Elementary.

“I would say this if you’re elderly, and or you have some kind of underlying health conditions, you should probably get the Pfizer or Moderna shot because it provides overall 95% protection from catching it,” explained Lt. Governor Dr. Josh Green. “If, however, you’re on the younger side, say under 50 years old and have no other issues, then the Johnson & Johnson is fine.”

Green said vaccination sites will have days administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and then days for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, so that people can have a choice.

“We want that to be very clear, it should be a personal choice for what vaccine people get,” Green said.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven effective against variants with just one dose, including the South African variant.

“They’re using it almost exclusively now in South Africa,” said Green. “The J&J has a lot of merits — I have to say, all of them do — but people should not feel like they’re getting a second-tier vaccination if they get the Johnson & Johnson. They’re all valuable and all worth it.”

Green said there are about 50,000 to 60,000 people in the 70- to 74-year-old range who can get vaccinated starting Monday, but some of those people already have been vaccinated.

“It’s hard to gauge because some individuals have already gotten vaccinated in that category,” he said. “If they’re living in nursing facilities, if they had other job responsibilities, some of them were frontline workers, so it’s not a giant population.”

Green said it should only take a week or two until the state could possibly open up to 65 and older to get vaccinated.

“I previously predicted that we would get to about 900,000 shots by May 1. We may very well touch one million shots in that first week of May, at this rate,” Green said.

Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been shipped to Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai. More information about where and when Hawaii residents can receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be announced in the coming days.

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