SALUDA COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Department of Health and Environmental Control says pausing the distribution of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will have “less of an impact” on South Carolina than if the other authorized vaccines were put on hold.
“South Carolina, like most states, had been receiving a small amount of Janssen vaccine from the federal government — about 7,000 doses a week — compared to the more than 40,000 doses each of Pfizer and Moderna we receive each week,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.
However, while Johnson and Johnson makes up only slightly more than five percent of the state’s total first doses, pharmacists in small towns across the state have been relying on the “one and done” shot.
“Most people don’t have access to transportation. It’s probably an hour, hour and a half drive[to the nearest hospital],” said pharmacist Bo Banks. “We have a lot of elderly who don’t drive anymore. I’ve done a lot of delivery. I’ve had people walk to town.”
Bank’s pharmacy, Banks Drugs, is located in Ridge Springs, South Carolina in Saluda County. It’s a town of more than 700 people, according to 2010 US Census data, in a county that has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state.
But Banks has been doing what he can to fix that statistic. According to DHEC data, his pharmacy has given out more than 630 shots of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. He said the fact that the shot is a one-dose regiment has helped him vaccinate his community.
“People are more worried about the side effects or symptoms they would get…with two shots you have to worry about or have anxiety, two different shots, whereas J&J is one shot and you’re done,” he said.
In fact, Banks said he sent back doses of the Moderna vaccine allocated to him by the federal government because demand for Johnson and Johnson is so high in his community.
He explained a lot of his patients and customers weren’t worried about the pause in distribution and were calling him Tuesday to see if it was possible to still get the shot despite the federal recommendations.
“They were saying, ‘Well can I still get it if I want it?’ and you know, no, no you can’t,” he said.