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Supply of J&J shots at some pharmacies spread thin as Washington's vaccine mandate approaches

Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine is the only vaccine available now that will guarantee a person is fully vaccinated by Gov. Jay Inslee's Oct. 18 deadline.

SEATTLE — The clock is ticking for certain employees to get vaccinated in time to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their last dose. 

The only COVID-19 vaccine left that would allow people to be fully vaccinated before Inslee's Oct. 18 deadline is Johnson & Johnson’s single dose shot.

As that deadline approaches, some health care, education and state employees hesitant to get the vaccine are facing a dilemma.

“October 4 is the last date to get Johnson and Johnson and qualifies fully vaccinated,” said Cassie Sauer, president & CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association at their weekly briefing. 

Sauer added, the association will not have an understanding of how many hospital employees in the state are not vaccinated until Oct. 4, 2021, the last day to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and meet the deadline.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, there is an adequate supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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As of Sept. 20, the state had 84,082 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Ordering for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine reopened on Sept. 10 and 59,700 doses have been requested from providers.

Availability at the state level was just mended after a month of frustration for vaccine providers.

“Mostly all of August and early into September, there was none available within the state. And current supplies were expiring, they were reaching their expiration date. So fortunately, there was vaccine made available,” said Steve Fijalka, chief pharmacy officer for UW Medicine.

According to Fijalka, all of UW Medicine’s pharmacies have the supply needed for now but he is anticipating the demand to increase.

“We expect as this date gets closer, more individuals will probably, you know, have to make a decision and J&J probably will be their choice,” he said.

But for companies that rely on the federal government for vaccine doses, it’s a different story.

“Our teams are getting bombarded with calls and it’s been an issue because we can’t get it,” said David Green, director of Pharmacy for Safeway & Albertsons – Seattle.

He told KING 5 Safeway and Albertsons get vaccine shipments from the federal government and there’s a backlog in supply.

“We're at the mercy of the federal government in terms of ordering our Johnson and Johnson and we're just not able to get any. And so, we've got just a very, very small amount,” he said.

Green said there’s no way for them to predict when more doses will be available.

Both Green and Fijalka said one thing is clear: people should not wait until Oct. 4, the last day to get the J&J vaccine, to meet the state's deadline.

“I know there's probably some anxiety around the Oct. 4 deadline and you know, that's really not anything that anybody can control but what you can control is getting vaccinated now. Getting the series started now with what vaccines are available. The vaccines that are available have been very effective against preventing serious disease and death and hospitalizations, which is really the important piece,” said Green.

“I think we anticipate there will be a rush as the time gets closer. It’d be ideal if they made those decisions a little earlier than Oct. 4, but we will have supplies and staff ready to do vaccinations,” Fijalka said.