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8,000 people get Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at Berglund Center

Published: Mar. 6, 2021 at 5:24 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In Roanoke, 4,000 people in the Roanoke and Alleghany health districts received their first and only dose of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, and 4,000 more will get that same vaccine Sunday.

“It’s one dose, it’s over with, the whole process was smooth, fast, they did a good job,” Cleve Porter, who got vaccinated Saturday, said. “I felt pretty lucky, really.”

The vaccine clinic happened at the Berglund Center in drive-thru fashion, which is different than the past mass vaccine clinics in Roanoke.

“With our partnership with VDH, we’re always looking for ways to improve our processes and look for ways to safely and efficiently get as may shots in arms as possible, and we thought with weather improving, this would be a great opportunity to look at a way to get 4,000 people through on Saturday and 4,000 on Sunday,” Chad Alvarez, Senior Director of Pharmacy for Carilion Clinic, said.

This clinic was made possible since the J&J vaccine recently got federal approval.

“If I wasn’t wearing a mask, you’d see a huge grin on my face, we are so excited, this is 8,000 doses that we didn’t know about last week,” Cynthia Morrow, Health Director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, said.

Email invites went out to folks within the Roanoke City and Alleghany health districts who pre-registered through the VDH website and who fall into group 1b--those with medical conditions and those 65 and older.

“We were all very happily surprised that as soon as we were able to open the clinic, it filled up in about 4 hours, which means there is still a lot of demand and that is wonderful for our community,” Morrow said.

While the J&J shot technically has lower efficacy numbers than Moderna and Phizer, VDH said that shouldn’t prevent you from getting the shot if you have the chance.

“These are not head-to-head trials. We cannot compare the efficacy across the three vaccines because they were done in different populations, in different countries . . . What we know is that this is a safe, effective vaccine,” Morrow explained.

To help make this clinic a success, the VDH Medical Reserve Corp and the National Guard volunteered.

VDH officials believe everyone who wants to get vaccinated in these districts should be able to by May. But they said while this clinic serves as a celebration, it also provides hope after a very traumatic year of grief and loss.

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