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Options for J&J shot in Cowlitz County limited as COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline looms
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Options for J&J shot in Cowlitz County limited as COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline looms

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People waiting until the last minute to get a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the state mandate deadline later this month may have to cast a wider net than usual to find the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Monday is the last day for unvaccinated people to get either their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or single dose of the J&J vaccine to be in compliance by the Oct. 18 deadline. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the vaccine series.

In August, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the requirements for most state employees, healthcare, long-term care workers and school staff to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. Employees could request a medical or religious exemption to receive a reasonable accommodation.

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Several Cowlitz County clinics and pharmacies offer the COVID-19 vaccines, but residents looking for the single-dose option don’t have many choices close to home. The Community Health Partners free clinic in Longview is the only location with J&J listed on the state’s Vaccine Locator website.

The free clinic is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The only other location within 50 miles of Longview with J&J is a QFC in Vancouver, according to the Vaccine Locator.

It is not yet listed online, but Cowlitz Family Health Center received 100 doses of J&J on Thursday, said Chief Executive Officer Jim Coffee. The organization receives its vaccines through a federal program and last week was the first time it could order the single-dose vaccine since mid-June, he said.

The organization ordered the vaccine in preparation of the looming mandate deadline as well as for when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves J&J booster shots, Coffee said. As of Friday, only Pfizer booster shots were authorized.

“Most of the inquiries we’ve gotten are for booster shots,” Coffee said. “I have not heard about folks calling looking for J&J to keep their employment.”

Kaiser Permanente’s Longview clinic offered J&J earlier this year, but stopped because the demand was for Pfizer and Moderna, said spokesperson Debbie Karman. The clinic hasn’t gotten requests for the single-dose shot, she said.

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Stefanie Donahue, Cowlitz County health department spokesperson, said there are fewer providers offering the J&J shot than this spring, likely in part due to federal supply constraints.

Overall, COVID-19 vaccine supply is not a concern across Washington like it was in the past and all 39 counties have vaccines on hand, said Shelby Anderson, state Department of Health spokesperson. There are currently no ordering restrictions and J&J is available to people who request it, she said. As of Sept. 27, there were 57,880 doses of J&J available in Washington.

It’s unknown how many employees who fall under the state mandate have yet to be vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state and Cowlitz County increased in August and September, likely in part because of the mandate.

Cowlitz County COVID-19 vaccine rates increase, mostly due to mandates, providers say

As of Wednesday, 63.3% of state residents had initiated vaccination and 57.8% were fully vaccinated. In Cowlitz County, 55.1% of residents had received at least one dose and 49.4% were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.

County providers administered 445 doses on Sept. 13, the highest number of shots given since June 22, according to the Department of Health.

Ken Dale, Community Health Partners executive director, said Friday the clinic has been “incredibly busy” in the last couple weeks. The clinic has been giving about 30 to 40 COVID-19 vaccines per day during the three days a week it is open, he said. Dale said he expects demand to slow in October.

Clinic staff and volunteers don’t ask why people are getting the vaccine, but some patients have said it’s because of the mandates, Dale said.

“Some people have been upset about it, and some people realize they just got to get it,” he said. “We’re not looking at peoples’ motivation, we’re just there to provide vaccine to people.”

Dale said some patients have come from outside the county, including Centralia, Chehalis and Vancouver, to find the J&J vaccine. The clinic accepts anyone looking for a COVID-19 shot, he said.

“We’ve been very pleased because the more people come get the shot, the healthier the community as whole will be,” Dale said.

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