LITTLE FALLS, NJ -- TAPintoTV’s Brian Brodeur spoke with Patrick Kelly, the Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, about COVID-19 vaccine distribution both across the country and in New Jersey, including the recently-approved Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine.

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) is the national institution of pharmaceutical distributors — the vital link in the national healthcare system that helps manufacturers and pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and others receive medications safely.

Distributors like HDA have played a crucial role in distributing COVID-19 vaccines and the critical supplies like masks, gowns, and gloves needed for administering the shots. Because the federal government contracted with Pfizer, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson to purchase the vaccines, they are distributed through a central distribution process.

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“Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson products ship from their manufacturing facilities to one of our companies called McKesson,” Kelly explained. “So if they are sending out 1,000 vaccines to Newark, NJ, McKesson is going to make sure that there are 1,000 syringes and gowns to administer the vaccine.”

Once McKesson hands off the vaccines to FedEx or UPS, the shipping companies deliver them to locations, like hospitals, according to guidelines set by states’ departments of health.

Although vaccine distribution is pretty straightforward, Kelly notes the administration aspect is not. “We heard a state and territorial health official on a call two weeks ago describe that at one of their vaccination centers, for every chair they had, they were administering two to three vaccines per minute. But they were taking three to five minutes per vaccinated patient to capture the data and upload it to the system,” Kelly explained. “So there is this lag in the capacity to get shots in arms,” he continued. “That is what I think is slowing down the administration process. Distribution is working just fine.”

However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine promises to speed along the administration process since it only requires a single dose. The vaccine received FDA emergency use authorization on February 27, 2021 and can remain stable at refrigeration temperatures, between 36-46°F. “I think it will significantly increase the capacity of states, cities, and localities all across this country to get more shots in arms,” Kelly said. “It is a definite game enhancer.”

New Jersey is set to receive 70,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. As a result of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, New Jersey residents can make appointments directly with pharmacies to receive their vaccinations. Governor Murphy recently expanded COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to include educators, transportation workers, and other frontline essential workers.

“The hope is that we can make it as easy as possible to get the vaccines as close to the people that need them as possible,” Kelly explained. “If that is the corner pharmacy, the hospital, the giant stadium parking lot, get those people there, get vaccines delivered, and get those shots in arms.”

To learn more about the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, visit https://www.hda.org, and to keep up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccine information in New Jersey, visit (website).