Local officiWellMed clinics are giving people the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine again.als and health care workers join at WellMed Elvira Cisneros Senior Community Center to announce an upcoming COVID-19 vaccine distribution where access to South Side residents can be inoculated.
WellMed clinics are giving people the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine again. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

After a brief hiatus, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is once again being used throughout the U.S. San Antonio’s WellMed clinics are among the providers administering the one-dose shots again. The Moderna vaccine is also available at WellMed sites.

Federal regulators put a halt to the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson, also known as Janssen (the Belgian J&J subsidiary that developed the vaccine), vaccine on April 13 after discovering six cases of blood-clotting disorders among the more than 7 million J&J shots given to Americans.

On Friday a committee of national vaccine experts recommended it to be reauthorized for use in the U.S., as the risk of developing the associated blood-clotting symptoms is very low (less than 1 in a million).

“What we found during this pause is that [the Johnson & Johnson vaccine] is incredibly safe,” said Colleen Bridger, assistant city manager and the City’s top COVID-19 official. “My son has had it, so I’m speaking from [the perspective of] a mom who has no qualms about the fact that my son got the J&J vaccine.”

After federal regulators initiated a review of the vaccine and paused its administration, some worried public perception of the vaccine would take such a hit that it would derail immunization efforts.

National polling shows trust in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has fallen, with almost as many people believing the inoculant is somewhat unsafe (41%) as those who say it is very or somewhat safe (46%). Meanwhile, more than two-thirds saw the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as safe.

Texas is seeing a definite dip in vaccine demand, as two-thirds of the state’s population have yet to be fully vaccinated. It’s resulting in a shift in strategy among public health agencies: Go out into the communities to get people vaccinated rather than wait for them to sign up.

“The next phase will be about helping ensure that vaccine is more easily available to those folks who are not going to go as far out of their way.” Imelda Garcia, an official with the Department of State Health Services, told The Texas Tribune.

San Antonio has rolled out a vaccination program for homebound residents. Partnering with the San Antonio Food Bank and Meals on Wheels, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is working through a list of residents who are unable to leave their homes for COVID-19 vaccinations.

On Monday, local officials reported the coronavirus positive test rate fell to an all-time low of 1.9%. On top of that testing has remained steady the past few weeks, with more than 55,000 Bexar County residents tested for COVID-19 last week. It signals that transmission in the area remains at a low risk level, although local hospitals have seen a recent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Local officials said seven residents have developed so-called breakthrough COVID-19 infections, meaning they tested positive for the virus at least two weeks after completing a full vaccination program. Bridger said that there have only been seven breakthrough cases among the more than 500,000 fully vaccinated Bexar County residents means the vaccine is highly effective.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that about 5,800 people throughout the country have tested positive for the coronavirus two weeks or more after completing both vaccine doses.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.