New York City will use Johnson & Johnson’s easy to store, single-dose coronavirus shot to vaccinate homebound seniors and others, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
‘Let’s talk about how we’re going to reach home-bound seniors,’ the mayor said during a media briefing.
‘We’re going to use that Johnson & Johnson vaccine to reach homebound, seniors, literally sending medical personnel, trained folks to individual apartments.’
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is not yet authorized, but it could get the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) green light in the coming weeks, after the agency’s review meeting scheduled for February 26.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine – once it is authorized by the FDA – will be key to the city’s efforts to get shots to homebound seniors
Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine only need to be stored at about the same temperature a refrigerator is kept at and with one dose, finding home aides to follow up with homebound people would be less of an issue
It can be safely stored at 36°F–46°F – about the same temperature as a refrigerator – compared to Moderna’s vaccine, which has to be stored at freezer temperatures, or Pfizer’s which requires ultra-cold storage (though it can be kept for a few days at refrigerator temperatures).
New York City has vaccinated about about 10 percent of its adult population.
Like the rest of the nation, the city began rollout with health care workers and nursing home residents, and has since expanded to people ages 65 or older.
And more than a quarter of a million COVID-19 vaccine appointments were made in New York state on Sunday after people with comorbidities – such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, certain disabilities or pregnancy – that put them at risk for severe infection became eligible.
But that doesn’t mean that everyone who is eligible to get a vaccine is physically able to do so.
Elderly people and those with underlying conditions are now eligible to get shots in New York City, but shots are mostly being given at mass vaccination sites like the Javits Center, that are not accessible to homebound seniors
Some 136,000 New Yorkers over age 85 are homebound, according to an April 2020 Center for an Urban Future report.
Elderly New Yorkers were already decimated by COVID-19 in the spring, when the virus swept through the city and killed thousands of people, most of whom were seniors.
Homebound seniors have endured unparalleled isolation.
And many are homebound precisely because they suffer from chronic diseases, have compromised immune conditions are poor mobility – all of which could make COVID-19 especially dangerous to them.
Yet these people who face multiple vulnerabilities to coronavirus and should be among the very first in line for vaccines likely can’t get them at all right now because they cannot travel to mass vaccination sites or even pharmacies to get their shots.
Even comparatively healthy people have struggled to get appointments, or waited hours in the cold or rain for their chance at a shot. That’s simply not an option for homebound seniors.
‘I’m particularly concerned about our homebound seniors,’ de Blasio said.
‘Seniors…who cannot leave their building or cannot even leave their apartment in some cases, they need a special focused vaccination effort. So, we’re going to do a number of things to reach them.
‘It’s been a horrible year for everyone this last year, but our seniors have in many ways felt the most isolated, and we’ve got to do more to reach them, give them freedom again, allow them to breathe a sigh of relief by getting vaccinated. So, we’re going to go straight to them.’
For now, that’s not impossible, but very impractical.
Pfizer’s vaccine has to be transported in special dry ice-filled containers.
Moderna’s is slightly less finicky, but should still requires freezing storage temperatures.
Neither is well-suited to being toted from door to door for at-home injections.
‘That’s going to take a lot of work and it will certainly take time, but there’s tens of thousands of seniors who need that direct support in their own home. We’re going to be doing that with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,’ said de Blasio.
So far, programs like the one New York City’s mayor is planning are not widespread, but he’s not the first to suggest this use of Johnson & Johnson’s shot.
An Orange County, California, health official suggested the the single-dose shot might be ideal for bringing vaccination to homebound people.
It would be ‘the most convenient vaccine when we need to bring vaccines to an individual’s home,’ said Dr Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency at a February 4 town hall meeting attended by Spectrum News 1.
He intends for his county to start distributing the Johnson & Johnson shot to people at home as soon as it is authorized.
‘We will then vaccinate those vulnerable populations who are currently eligible, but the site of the vaccination has been a barrier for them to come to,’ he said two weeks ago.
‘That would be the population that I’ll be focusing on.’
Authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is more than a week away, at the very least, however.
Until then, states can offer only a kind of secondary protection to these especially vulnerable elderly people but vaccinating those they interact with.
Most homebound people rely on home aides, and Mayor de Blasio aims to get 25,000 of these aides vaccinated in the next 30 days in the hopes that this will reduce the odds one of them transmits the virus from one of their clients to another.