LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — When Grassroots Pharmacy received its first batch of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in March, appointments for all 100 doses were booked up within thirty minutes.
“Once the appointments filled up, we had to go to a waitlist, of course, and our phones were ringing every two minutes," said pharmacy owner Dr. Shelley Roberts. “It didn’t surprise me, but it was a little bit stressful.”
The initial wait list grew by over 600 names within the week, according to Dr. Roberts. Grassroots Pharmacy received its third batch of the J&J vaccine on Wednesday. Staff spent the morning working through the waitlist to fill slots for the 200 available vaccine appointments.
“A lot of people ended up getting vaccines elsewhere,” she said. “We advise people if you have a choice of getting a vaccine now, even if it’s not your first choice of Johnson and Johnson, get one if you can.”
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32% of Kentuckians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, the commonwealth is still a long way from reaching the 70-85% scientists estimate is needed to reach herd immunity. As the state and country try to reach the goal, however, some are making the decision to wait for a specific vaccine to be made available, like the Johnson and Johnson vaccine at Grassroots Pharmacy.
"I try to encourage people by saying, 'Look, what we're trying to do here is to prevent death, severe illness, and hospitalizations. All of them are 100-percent at that and that's what we're trying to accomplish.' So everything else aside from that is really minor details as far as which vaccine to get,” Dr. Roberts said.
"I think people need to go get the first vaccine that's available to them, especially since we're seeing what appears to be a surge in cases nationally,” echoed Dr. David Doughtery, an infectious disease specialist with Baptist Health Lexington.
All three COVID-19 vaccines are considered to be safe and effective, as deemed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The vaccines do have differences. The J&J vaccine has a 60% efficacy rate in the U.S., while the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have an efficacy rate above 90%.
The vaccines also meet different storage requirements and shelf lives.
Plus, the J&J shot is the only single-dose vaccine approved in the United States.
However, health experts, including the nation’s top health official Dr. Anthony Fauci, have stressed the importance of getting a vaccine because it provides protection from the coronavirus, regardless of the differences in production.