MEDFORD, Ore. — Jackson County Public Health is now in possession of the first shipment of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, officials said on Wednesday. The positive news is accompanied by recent trends in new virus cases that could send the county back to "Extreme Risk" status by the end of next week.
Public health officials said that they have received 600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Staff are working to get these doses to eligible groups that "may be hard to reach, have barriers to accessing the vaccine, and would be challenging to provide a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine."
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson product is designed to be delivered in a single dose.
"Jackson County Public Health is hopeful that the vaccine supply chain will increase in late March and April, allowing for more vaccines to be distributed to Jackson County and increasing access to the vaccine," the agency said. "Jackson County Public Health and our healthcare partners are encouraged by the number of people wanting to be vaccinated, and we are all eager to provide the vaccine. We appreciate the community's patience; we are all doing the best we can – as fast as we can – with the available resources we have."
Jackson County stepped down from Extreme to High Risk last Friday, but it may be forced to go back on Oregon's highest level of restrictions by next Friday if trends continue.
According to county data, there were just over 223 cases per 100,000 people during the week of February 14 through 27. Jackson County needs to have case rates below 200 per 100,000 to qualify for High Risk status. Public health officials have logged 121 new cases since Sunday.
As of Wednesday, Jackson County's coronavirus death toll stood at 114 since the beginning of the pandemic. Officials reported the death of a 65-year-old woman who tested positive on January 18 and died on February 28 at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. She had underlying conditions.
The day prior, health officials reported the death of a 27-year-old man who tested positive on January 26 and died on February 19 at Legacy Emmanuel Health in Portland. He also had underlying conditions.
"Jackson County Public Health understands that people are ready to resume life as it was before the pandemic," the agency said. "Even though the vaccine provides us hope that society will operate as it did before the pandemic, we must continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. Letting our guard down against preventing the spread of COVID-19 will increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading in Jackson County, which will put Jackson County at a higher risk level and jeopardize people's health."