More than a dozen drive-through vaccination tents opened simultaneously Friday morning at City College of San Francisco vaccination site, administering 1,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines to eligible groups, the city’s largest single day distribution of the newly approved vaccine.
Every recipient Mission Local spoke with said they received an email on Thursday night inviting them to sign up for the vaccine, and that the process had been very simple.
“The timing worked out great,” said Martha Harding, a 21-year-old who is working her first shift as a bartender at Richmond Republic Draught House Friday night.
“I’m probably not going to go crazy making plans or anything,” Harding said, but she now feels more comfortable entering a busy workplace and being in close proximity to customers, she said.
Organizers from the Department of Public Health and the Department of Emergency Management hosted the event to convince residents of the new vaccine’s efficacy after hearing some people express doubts about the one-shot vaccine because in U.S. trials it reported a 72 percent success rate against the virus compared to 95 percent for the two-shot vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna.
Dr. Grant Colfax, director of public health for San Francisco, pointed out that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just as effective in preventing severe symptoms, hospitalizations and death as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The effort today appeared to be part of a statewide campaign to promote the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Los Angeles Times reported that four of the state’s top medical officials, including Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the state Department of Public Health and state health officer, attended a similar mass vaccination event today at the Oakland Coliseum, where they all submitted to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In San Francisco, Colfax summed up their assessment: “All the vaccines that we have available are excellent vaccines.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not need to be frozen, unlike the two other vaccines, making its transportation, storage and administration easier for clinics and pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS.
Recipients of the vaccine have also showed lower rates of side effects, and the fact that it is a single dose makes it easier for residents who have trouble scheduling appointments or leaving their home, according to Colfax and Mary Ellen Carroll, director of emergency management.
Bill Teahan, a division manager for the San Francisco Water Department, said he was initially skeptical of any Covid-19 vaccine, but decided to sign up after receiving an email from the city inviting him to sign up for Friday’s event.
“My thought process was if I was going to get vaccinated, I wanted the J & J,” Teahan said. “I just wanted the one shot.”
After receiving the vaccine, Teahan said he hopes to serve as an example to the other members of his staff, who are all eligible as emergency service workers.
Although the new vaccine was approved nearly two weeks ago, vaccine supply has yet to keep up with the city’s capacity to administer them, Colfax said.
“We are able to do well over 10,000 vaccines a day in San Francisco,” Colfax said. “Right now, the main issue is we still don’t have enough vaccine. So when we get enough vaccine, we hope to be able to open up eligibility as quickly as possible.”
To date, the city has received 4,800 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and an additional undisclosed amount has gone to local pharmacies. The city intends to go through it’s supply within a week, Colfax said, but will not receive more Johnson & Johnson vaccines next week, according to the Department of Emergency Management.
Next week, the city will receive 13,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Colfax said.
To date, more than one in four San Franciscans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and approximately 97,400 residents are fully vaccinated, according to the city’s vaccination dashboard. However, problems reported within the California Immunization Registry mean the total number of vaccinated residents could be higher.
Suket Mahal, a manager of Richmond Republic, said the vaccine will alleviate his constant fear of being exposed to the virus at work and accidentally transmitting it to a vulnerable loved one.
“I’m going to feel a lot better about going to see my folks,” Mahal said.