What happens with unused J&J vaccines at Upstate pharmacies

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – We’ve told you about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and how the CDC and the FDA have recommended a pause on the vaccine for now.

But how has that affected our local pharmacies that were giving it out? And what happens next? We went by an Upstate pharmacy to find out.

Smith’s Drugs has been a staple in downtown Spartanburg for quite some time. But, most recently, they’ve been known best for their offering of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“We’ve had a lot of people that we had never seen before,” K. Patel said. “A lot of new folks came to our store, looking for the vaccine, because we were able to get them an appointment faster than anywhere else.”

K. Patel is a pharmacist at Smith’s Drugs and said they’ve been a little busier than usual lately as, he said, many people preferred Johnson & Johnson over the other two vaccines.

“A lot of people wanted to get the Johnson & Johnson because it’s just the one dose,” Patel said. “It’s more convenient.”

But, on Tuesday, the CDC and FDA recommended that providers pause the use of the vaccine after rare blood clots were found in six vaccine recipients.

Patel said, so far, they’d only received two shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with 300 doses in the first batch–back in March, and 200 in the second batch–just this week.

Patel told 7 News they can give up to 45 shots per day, and they quickly administered the first 300. However, they only gave out 17 of the next 200 before they were told to come to a halt.

“Right now, we’re just holding the Johnson & Johnson vaccines until we get further notification,” he said.

Patel said that means storing the unused vaccines at a certain temperature.

“We have a digital thermometer that constantly checks every 15 minutes and logs, and then we report that to DHEC every week,” he said.

Patel said DHEC will be sending them Moderna vaccines to administer in the meantime.

“I think it should be next week or so and we should be getting some Moderna shots, and we will start giving them out again,” Patel said.

And he has a message for those who were holding out for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“I wouldn’t wait for anything. I think they’re all safe,” he said. “They’re preventing you from getting into the hospital and that’s the goal. We don’t want to go to the hospital.”

If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Smith’s Drugs to get the Moderna vaccine, click here.

Those at Smith’s Drugs told 7 News they have a sister store, Boiling Springs Pharmacy, that was also originally administering the Johnson & Johnson shot; but they, too, will now be offering the Moderna vaccine instead.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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