PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Vaccination centers in the Philadelphia area are complying with the nationwide pause of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six women who received the shot developed rare blood clots. One of the women died.
After an unexpected day-long closure following the CDC and FDA’s recommendation to pause the use of the J&J vaccine, Esperanza Community Vaccination Center in Hunting Park reopened Wednesday. The vaccine site is switching from Johnson & Johnson to the Pfizer vaccine.
The Esperanza site is back in full swing just one day after a shutdown. The offer of the J&J one-shot vaccine is off the table. Now it’s strictly the two-dose Pfizer shots being offered at the FEMA site here and down at the Convention Center in Center City.
People turned away from the Esperanza vaccination center yesterday were back in line today.
“Once they opened and everyone started going in it was fast. Five minutes, I was already in the vaccination,” Luis Santiago said.
News of the J&J shot being pulled off the shelf was welcoming news to some.
“Cases of the blood clots in the U.S. were all women in my age group, so that was concerning for me and I don’t think I would’ve gone through with the J&J vaccine if they had still offered it,” Sarah Mainhart said.
The sudden announcement from the CDC meant thousands of people locally were turned away.
In response, the city and FEMA announced they will extend operations at the Convention Center vaccine site by four weeks, until May 26. The extension comes with 84,000 additional doses taken from the city and federal vaccine stockpiles.
“The point is, get the one that’ll help you, that you can trust,” Ruben Thomas said.
A rep from the city’s department of health says there will be enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine to accommodate appointments and walk-ins at both sites.
It is critical for the Esperanza Community Vaccination Center to continue serving this area, as these neighborhoods are faced with the lowest vaccination rates in the city.
“It’s in the heart of the Latino community. Historically, we haven’t had this kind of access so putting it here is large and we’ve already seen a good turnout of Latinos looking to get the vaccination,” said Danny Cortes, executive vice president of the Esperanza Center.
Both of these sites are available for walk-up vaccinations as long as you’re a resident and meet the eligibility criteria. A free shuttle bus loop from Broad and Allegheny is available for residents heading to the location.
The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium’s site at Deliverance Evangelistic Church fared better on Tuesday. Those waiting in line for the one-and-done shot were given Moderna instead.
“We were thinking do we cancel? Do we reschedule?” David Holecz said.
Worry in the suburbs, too.
Those scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the West Chester Government Center kept their appointments but switched to Moderna.
“I was just happy not to have to reschedule again,” Lydia Holman said.
Chester County officials say all clinics will stay open this week, offering Moderna to anyone scheduled to get Johnson & Johnson.
But Montgomery County’s J&J clinics have been suspended Wednesday, along with Bucks County’s sole J&J site in Warwick Square and Delaware County’s site at Delaware County Community College.
“I just wanted to get a vaccine, it didn’t matter to me which one,” Amy Auker said.
Across the Delaware Valley, officials say J&J currently makes up for roughly 10% of doses given so far.
State officials add that despite this pause, they’re still on track to meet vaccination goals and that the overall risks for anyone who did get the J&J shot are low.
“One in a million people receiving this vaccine have been affected by this issue,” Alison Beam with the Pennsylvania Department of Health said.
Meanwhile, the Esperanza Community Vaccination Center serves neighborhoods that have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the entire city. Appointments and walk-ups are accepted.
CBS3’s Jan Carabeo and Alecia Reid contributed to this report.