Earlier today, local family nurse practitioner Lindsey Mendez — a member of the county’s vaccine task force — took some time to answer media questions about the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. How does it work? Who is it for? Is it good? (Adenovirus, basically anyone and yes.)

Video above, rough transcript below.


Thank you for joining us for the March 4th Media Availability with Family Nurse Practitioner and Humboldt County Vaccine Task Force member Lindsey Mendez. Lindsey is going to begin by explaining the characteristics of the Janssen, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Hello thank you, hi Humboldt County again, my name is Lindsey Mendez and I’m here to introduce the Janssen vaccine to you today, or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In December I had the great privilege, with Diane Pacora, to introduce the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to you and I would like to tell you a little bit about the differences between the mRNA vaccines and the new DNA vaccine that’s coming from Janssen.

Just so everybody has less confusion, Johnson & Johnson is the company and Janssen was another part of the company that supported and sponsored the vaccine and that’s why it’s named that way.

So as we know we have two vaccines that are mRNA vaccines. We have the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, which we’ve been giving since December. Now we are going to be very excited to start a single-dose vaccine which is a DNA vaccine and this is going to be a one shot in your arm vaccine with an efficacy rate that will build over a longer period of time as opposed to needing two shots. So this DNA vaccine, your immunity is going to be building over the course of two weeks and then a month and also I would like to review what that means for it to be an adenovirus vector DNA vaccine.

So what this is is that as opposed to having the mRNA which we talked about before where you get an injection of the mRNA for a spike protein for the COVID-19 virus and then it going into your cells and allows you to create immunity to that spike protein. Now this is a little bit different, we are going to be getting a shot that laboratory members have engineered to be using a virus — an adenovirus — which would usually just give you a common cold and then it carries the DNA for the COVID-19 spike protein and then in your own cell in the nucleus you then are creating the information from the DNA to be immune to COVID-19. 

So even though it’s a little bit different it’s pretty similar in a way that it’s going to work for us and the as I said before the good news is is that this is a one-shot vaccine, so we will be distributing it throughout the county very soon as it will most likely be appearing in the next week.

From the North Coast News: Has public health run into the situation where people are refusing to take one specific version of the vaccine? For example, someone shows up to their appointment and says they will only take the Moderna vaccine. What is the frequency with which this happens?

I’m not sure the frequency in which this happens but as a member of the task force, I do know that it has happened enough times that we are aware that people do have preferences but the great news is that every vaccine available has excellent efficacy and that any vaccine that you desire will give you a good protection against COVID-19. It is the choice of the individual if they would like Pfizer, Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson and as we’re aware many people are very excited about having all three options.

From the North Coast News: With vaccination rates increasing in Humboldt, when does the county expect to see a drop in coronavirus cases due to a large amount of people being vaccinated?

This is an excellent question and as we move forward we will be having a better understanding about the herd immunity of our county as we continue to vaccinate first and second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine and also starting with the Johnson & Johnson. What we do know is that this is going to take months of time, throughout the spring and the summer and getting into the fall to get everybody fully vaccinated in our county and also in the state of California to end the pandemic and we would ask that everybody continues to socially distance and wash their hands and mask as we get to this safe level.

From the Redheaded Blackbelt: How helpful is it for a rural county like Humboldt to have access to this single-dose vaccine?

I think it’s extremely helpful for any place to have access to a single-dose vaccine but especially in rural areas where people have issues with transportation, sometimes they have issues with technology of not being able to use wi-fi perhaps, they can’t get to their second dose appointment this is a very important thing for people with equity in a rural area.

From the Redheaded Blackbelt: With the addition of the J&J vaccine, how will the timeline of vaccine distribution locally change, if any?

Well we do not know if it will change if any but what we can tell you is that with an extra vaccine that we’re having it tells us that we will have more vaccine of a different kind coming to the county and this will inevitably help vaccinate more people.

From the Redheaded Blackbelt: Would the J&J vaccine be better suited for any particular demographic due to its (so far) unique qualities of being not only single dose, but also considered 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths, and if so, who would that be?

The CDC has made numerous suggestions about how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be utilized. Some of these suggestions include mobile health clinics, primary care offices and clinics that work with people who are often traveling.

From the Times-Standard: How is the county focusing its outreach to the Spanish speaking population as the vaccine continues to be rolled out? Have there been any difficulties in reaching the Latinx community?

I’m very glad that we have the time to talk about this question today and that it was brought up. Communication is a challenge for many communities especially if there’s any language barrier and we are aware that in the pandemic this has not gotten any easier. With that said the Public Health department and the EOC are actively recruiting staff and volunteers to help us with our vaccination clinics for Spanish interpreters anyone who is willing to come forward as a bilingual speaker and ranging from intake to administration to vaccinators, this would be very helpful. The Public Health department is also engaging in listening sessions with this community, it is our highest priority that we understand the needs and desires of the Latinx community at this time.

From the Times-Standard: Has the county received any Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses? If not, when will the county begin receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

The county has not received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the freezer or refrigerator at this time but we have been allocated vaccine from the state and we will be getting updates about when we will be receiving this.

From the Times-Standard: Considering it is a one dose formula, will the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be given priority for remote areas and people who have trouble making appointments?

At this time we do not know how the state allocation system will be prioritizing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. What we do know is that as we move with the state plan changing to Blue Shield of California taking over the allocation process they will be working hard to ensure equity and that the Johnson & Johnson is used appropriately.

From the Times-Standard: Will Humboldt County be receiving any of the vaccines allocated by the state for lower income regions?

At this time again we do not know the answer to that question and we are waiting for the state to give us more information.

From the Times-Standard: Is there any data being collected on regional vaccine efficacy?

The data that’s collected by the local public health departments is not data that will be necessarily telling us about the regional vaccine efficacy, these kinds of trials and studies are done by the pharmaceutical companies who run the drug trials themselves, and so at this time we are submitting data using our tracking through what is called VAERS and CAIR which are abbreviations for the state systems where we document vaccine and demographics.