Rural communities lose option for J&J vaccine

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Most of the U.S., including New Mexico, has paused the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to concerns over potential blood clotting.

Local physician Kirk Irby said they haven’t given that many does of that vaccine so far.

“We did roughly 50 of the J & J vaccine before we had the halt order,” he said.

Irby said his pharmacy in Artesia received the Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna vaccines because their facility isn’t able to store the Pfizer vaccine at a cold enough temperature. That was health officials’ plan for more rural areas and smaller providers regardless.

Health officials said only 3% of New Mexicans received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Many were migrant workers.

“The kind of migrant type farmworkers, you don’t know where they’re going to be in three to four weeks when they need that second shot and if it’s going to be available where they’re at,” said Irby.

Irby said travel is another reason people were opting for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He’s had people come from as far as Carlsbad to get vaccinated. However, since the halt, he said he has not noticed people deciding not to get vaccinated.

“Check to see if they wanted to either not get the vaccine or if they wanted to convert to the Moderna vaccine and pretty much everybody that was in line for the J and J opted for the Moderna,” he said.

He said vaccination efforts in this part of the state will only be slightly slowed down.

State health leaders said a few mobile clinics were rescheduled or cancelled, and others shifted to the other two vaccines.