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'It's very frustrating:' Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause affects vaccines for homeless

Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause affects vaccines for homeless{ } (WTGS file)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause affects vaccines for homeless (WTGS file)
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Vaccinating the homeless for COVID-19 is an initiative city leaders said they are prioritizing, but the effort has now been put on hold because of the FDA's pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

READ MORE: US recommends 'pause' for single-dose J&J vaccine over clotting reports

The pause presents another roadblock to the staff at the Old Savannah City Mission. The homeless shelter has been closed since the pandemic first began, and they thought they were on track to re-open their doors, with efforts to vaccinate the homeless.

“Without the vaccine, it’s not safe to bring that many men together in this close proximity, so it's very frustrating for us,” said Larry McDaniel, the shelter's executive director.

RELATED: Savannah homeless shelter remains closed until homeless become vaccinated

J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care has been holding Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinics to vaccinate the homeless over the past week so they could be fully immunized after one dose.

“Patients were repeatedly coming up saying, ‘Oh my gosh I’m so glad y'all are doing this dose. Thank you for doing this. I’m just one and done right? I can get this and I’m done after?’ They really seemed to like it, and we were hoping to do that today,” said Dr. Bonzo Reddick, a physician with J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care.

His team couldn’t vaccinate the homeless outside of the Old Savannah City Mission Wednesday because they put a pause on the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine per the FDA.

“We’re still brainstorming how can we do the two-dose vaccine for the homeless population, especially for places like (the Old Savannah City Mission) where people are transient and not staying long term,” he said.

READ MORE: I got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Now what?

Until the FDA finishes its investigation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, McDaniel said the beds at the shelter will be empty a little longer.

"That’s a problem because there’s still a lot of homeless people in Savannah with no place to go,” said McDaniel.

McDaniel said while the shelter waits for widespread vaccine distribution for the homeless, they are still providing daily meals for the outside of the shelter.

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Leaders at the Savannah Civic Center’s vaccine site tell us vaccines for the homeless are also put on pause for the time being.

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