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Task Force discusses coronavirus escape mutations, island testing at Ancuram Clinic and vaccination sites

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Feb 17, 2021

pleblanc@breezenewspapers.com

Receiving vaccinations as swiftly as possible is vitally important, according to Epidemiologist Dr. James Koopman, as he stated during last week’s meeting of the Pine Island Task Force. On a global scale, the 14 recently approved COVID-19 vaccines are good news for developing countries, he said, as they are now able to get those medicines.

“I think we need to get those distributed as fast as we can,” Koopman said, “so adding other vaccines sounds like a good idea to me.”

Among the vaccines, veteran pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has developed a COVID-19 immunization, which is distributed in only one dose and stored easily in a refrigerator. According to Ancuram Clinic primary physician Dr. Daniel Hanley, one million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is reported to be available by summer.

“Johnson & Johnson has a traditional way of making the vaccine,” said Hanley another member of the Task Force. “It’s tried and true, it’s established. That’s the way the vaccine normally works.”

While Koopman maintains that the J&J vaccine is a little bit different than other vaccines, Hanley and Koopman agree that there can be no time wasted in getting the population immunized before the virus has a chance to mutate and evolve, catapulting the country from one epidemic straight into another.

“The more we can get out, the more the transmission goes down and the less chance that we’re going to have problems with the emerging resistance strains,” said Koopman. “I wish we knew the best strategy to keep the virus from mutating. The more we can get the vaccine circulating, the better. We just don’t know what the evolution of the virus will be. In terms of vaccine hesitancy, I think you have to look at the many millions that have been vaccinated and not had any serious problems … I think that needs to be emphasized. They are probably getting the high level of protection that the vaccine trials indicated … and not even one death.”

“I think there is some vaccine hesitancy,” Hanley agreed, “but right now the demand far outweighs the supply. Once we get the vaccines rolling and more people see that it’s not only available but it’s actually safe … effective and is the key to ending the pandemic, I don’t think we’ll have any problem getting people on board. It’s just a supply and demand issue right now, similar to what we had last spring with the masks, paper towels, and toilet paper. It will happen.”

Hanley reported that he can do routine COVID-19 testing in his Ancuram clinic in Bokeelia, as he now has numerous testing swabs available.

“As you know, we are a small clinic. We’re not a mass testing site,” said Hanley. “But I’d like to try to get the testing into as many hands as possible.”

Ancuram currently has the capability to schedule appointments to be tested for the coronavirus, or to see Hanley on the clinic website, Ancuram.com.

As far as becoming a vaccination site, Hanley said he’s in the same boat as everyone else.

“I’m registered with the Department of Health and Florida shots,” said Hanley. “I’m very frustrated. Even among the other hospitals throughout the area in the state, the supplies seem to be spotted and sporadic and that’s an issue because obviously the appointments should be first come, first serve and initiate the way for us to get at least a few weeks notification of what we can expect to reasonably get.”