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Can You Choose Which COVID Vaccine to Get? Here’s What We Know.



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The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup on Wednesday gave its stamp of approval for California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada to use the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

J&J’s offering is now the third COVID-19 vaccine supported for use in California. Initial shipments of the vaccine were received this week according to Governor Gavin Newsom’s office. Only the state’s mass vaccination sites in Oakland and Los Angeles received doses of the J&J vaccine, with each location getting 10,500 doses.

“Get any of these shots, it’s going to save your lives.”Governor Gavin Newsom

“With the authorization of the single-shot Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, we now have three remarkable vaccines that offer 100 percent protection from death and hospitalizations,” Newsom said in a statement.

While in Fresno last week, the governor was asked if the J&J vaccine would be prioritized for a specific group. He gave some insight into how the state will treat the proliferation of vaccines now available to residents.

“Some people prefer Pfizer, some people prefer Moderna. Some people say, well, J&J is a single dose,” responded Newsom. “Take the shot when it’s your turn. Get any of these shots, it’s going to save your lives.”

Newsom said the state is still working on a framework for how the vaccine will be distributed throughout the state.

“I just encourage people to take what they can get so we can get closer to the day when we’re at herd immunity and we’re starting to reopen,” explained Newsom.

So, does anyone get to choose which vaccine they get?

It appears that in California the answer is a little unclear.

California Vaccine FAQ Section

Deep down in the bowels of California’s website is a question and answer section that sort of addresses the question.

Question: “Will I have a choice between the various COVID-19 vaccines?”

Answer: “It depends. Check with your health care provider about which vaccine they have available.”

The state’s online portal, MyTurn, lets people check their eligibility for getting a vaccine. But, there’s no indication residents will be able indicate their choice of a vaccine.

In contrast, the state of Indiana implemented an online registration system that clearly states which type of vaccine is available at each clinic.

States Have the Choice

WUSA-Television really got to the heart of the question with Dr. Anand Parekh, chief medical advisor for the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“No,” said Parekh when asked if people get the choice of which vaccine they can get. “It’s a complicated process, there are actually 50 separate state vaccine distribution plans.”

According to Parekh, each state gets its own proportional supply of the three vaccines. The federal Health and Human Services website shows the state by state allocation on a daily basis.

“Then the state needs to make the decision of where these doses should go, and what quantity should go where,” said Parekh.

From there, vaccines get distributed to the counties or health departments based on need. But no, individuals don’t have a choice as to which vaccine they get it.

Most People Won’t Have a Choice

CNN asked medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen if people will get a choice of vaccine.

“Right now, supply is the limiting factor. Most people are not going to have a choice,” said Wen. “It may be that your doctor’s office or pharmacy or mass vaccination site will only have one type of vaccine. If that’s what you have access to right now, you should take it, as opposed to waiting for an unknown period of time for another vaccine.”

Wen also says to remember that taking a vaccine doesn’t mean a recipient is forever committed to it. Pfizer and Moderna are studying booster shots that target specific variants. Johnson & Johnson is doing the same testing, and they’re also studying a two-dose vaccine to see if a second dose enhances the protection of the first.