NORTH AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — North Augusta’s Parks Pharmacy was facing a deadline this week. It was days away from having to use dozens of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine before they expired.
“Currently, we have just over 100 doses remaining,” Dr. Laura Knotts, a pharmacist, says.
Parks Pharmacy planned to hold one additional vaccination event in hopes of distributing the remainder of its vaccine. Following a review Thursday, the FDA concluded Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine’s shelf life could be extended from three months to four and a half months, giving Parks Pharmacy a few more weeks to use its supply.
“When it expires, we have to go through the CDC and log it as a ‘wasted product.’ Then, we have to quarantine that and wait for a proper disposal opportunity.”
As of Tuesday, there were 7,325 unused doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in South Carolina, according to the S.C. Dept. of Health & Environmental Control. 25 will expire on August 5, 2,900 on August 7, 2,100 on September 5, and 2,3000 on September 15. Georgia had 212,051 doses in its “inventory among providers” as of Tuesday, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.
Confidence in the one-dose shot began to waiver in April when the FDA paused use of the vaccine due to concerns it was linked to blood clots. The pause was lifted after six days, but hesitancy over the drug lingered.
“Of course that put us behind. That window is closed. People went ahead and got other vaccines. it left us wondering how many people would still want it. When it was re-released, it was a slow start.”
Health expert are now turning to the community for help in raising vaccination rates. CDC data finds South Carolina ranks 40th in the U.S. for vaccinations, while Georgia ranks 45th. Dr. Joshua Wyche of Augusta University Health says starting conversations with friends and family can help drive those numbers up.
“This is a true Augusta community thing,” Wyche says. “It’s going to take everybody getting the education out and participating in this effort to make it successful.”
Surrey Center Pharmacy also has Johnson & Johnson vaccine available. One of its pharmacists tells NewsChannel 6 it is working to distribute it as quickly as possible.