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Pinal County prepares to distribute Johnson and Johnson vaccine

Posted at 9:25 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 23:25:49-05

PINAL COUNTY, AZ — More people in Pinal County are now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Next week, many can expect to get a brand-new vaccine as well, as the county has gotten its hands on a 3,500-dose shipment of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen EMTs, firefighters, nurses, and other volunteers got a crash course on the details surrounding the recently approved Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Those in attendance say it’s all about the details as they add another option to their growing list of vaccines.

“Of course, when we first started, we were a little bit nervous who was going to come, if people wanted it,” said Natasha Munoz following the hour-long training session.

Munoz has seen the demand firsthand. Next week, she, along with other volunteers, will begin administering the Johnson and Johnson one dose vaccine. On Tuesday, they worked through the logistics of the new shot, from storage to efficacy.

“The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) shot can only be out at room temperature for two hours,” said Munoz.

That’s compared to six hours for the Moderna vaccine, which is an important factor in making sure no dose gets wasted as the county now opens up to a new group of residents.

“We did add the 55 and older to our early vaccination group but we also added those 18 and up who have underlying medical conditions,” said Pinal County Health Director Dr. Tascha Spears.

She says the one-dose vaccine will now play a major role in serving that group and essential workers who travel out of state often.

“It can be used for the workers who travel for work, they are at times limited on their schedule and this allows them to get the shot and not have to return for a second dose,” said Dr. Spears. “We’re also looking at a mobile unit that would be able to reach those who may not be able to get out of their homes,” said Dr. Spears.

That mobile unit would be equipped with refrigeration to properly store and transport the vaccine.

If the volunteers can’t reach them with those units, FEMA officials tell us they will.

“We’re going to be partnering with the National Guard to get to those rural communities, whether it’s caravanning, bussing, even taking helicopters to these rural communities to go door-to-door,” said Sampson Daruvalla, a senior advisor for FEMA.

In the end, it’s about getting lifesaving medicine to those who need it, no matter where they are, which is a task every single one of these frontline workers are trying to make happen every day.

If you live in Pinal County and want to sign up for a vaccine appointment when supply is available, click here or call the central appointment desk at 1-866-960-0633.