J&J vaccine is a ‘game changer’ for Hawaii

  • Courtesy of Brooks Baehr/Hawaii Department of Health Hawaii received its first shipment of the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson Wednesday.

The first shipment of Johnson &Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived Wednesday in Hawaii.

According to the state Department of Health, 5,900 doses were delivered to Oahu, while Hawaii, Maui and Kauai counties each will receive 2,000 doses of the vaccine, which was approved for emergency use Saturday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr said the DOH is inviting educators from the state Department of Education to be vaccinated with the single-dose vaccine Friday as part of its continuing statewide vaccination effort.

He did not elaborate on those plans for educators, but said the DOH will announce in the coming days dates and locations at which additional populations can get the Johnson &Johnson vaccine.

The FDA said the single-dose Johnson &Johnson shot offers strong protection against serious illness, hospitalizations and death due to the virus, the Associated Press previously reported.

In a massive study that spanned three continents, one dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness. Protection from the vaccine remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

In the U.S., the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were 95% protective against symptomatic COVID-19. Johnson &Johnson’s one-dose effectiveness of 85% against severe COVID-19 dropped to 66% when moderate cases were rolled in, according to the AP report.

But there’s no apples-to-apples comparison because of differences in when and where each company conducted its studies, and the Pfizer and Moderna research was finished before variants began spreading.

Hilo Medical Center, however, will not receive or administer the Johnson &Johnson inoculation, hospital spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said Wednesday.

“We’re in the thick of things with Pfizer,” she said. “It’s really difficult to diversify and keep track of who gets what. … It’s best if we just stick with one. It’s something we’re very comfortable with.”

As of Wednesday, Kona Community Hospital was not expecting to administer the Johnson &Johnson vaccine, according to spokeswoman Judy Donovan.

“I don’t know the reason, but assume it is still in the planning stages,” she said.

State Health Director Dr. Libby Char said the Johnson &Johnson vaccine will be a “game changer” for Hawaii.


“I’m really happy about the Johnson &Johnson we received (Wednesday),” she said “It’s 11,900 doses, and that’s going to help us a lot. It’s a single shot, so when we vaccinate those people with the 11,900 doses, they’re done. We don’t need to bring them back for a second dose, and that’s going to be really advantageous for some people, especially those who are trying to get immunity as fast as they can.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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