Special Olympics vaccine clinic back on after pharmacy pivots from Johnson & Johnson to Moderna


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Special Olympic athletes in Austin were set to get the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday morning, but that was called off after the federal government recommended pausing the use of it.

During a whirlwind morning, Tarrytown Pharmacy confirmed that the clinic today in Austin would continue after more than 800 doses of the Moderna vaccine were given to them by the state.

Pharmacy staff was set to vaccinate Special Olympics athletes around Texas using the Johnson & Johnson shot, but now those plans are up in the air. In the meantime, those athletes in Austin will get the first of their Moderna shots Tuesday.

Rannon Ching with Tarrytown Pharmacy said his team had planned to spend two weeks on the road administering the vaccine.

“For us to get these Special Olympics athletes, their volunteers and their family members vaccinated, we can get back to providing these amazing services to help the Special Olympics,” Ching said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the decision about Johnson and Johnson public at 6 a.m.

“We’re working with (the Department of State Health Services) and (the state of Texas) to figure out what to do moving forward,” Tarrytown Pharmacy told KXAN by text. “Federal government put a halt on things, but each state is responsible for making their own decision.”

Tarrytown Pharmacy had partnered with Special Olympics Texas to vaccinate hundreds of athletes, volunteers, and staff over the next two weeks, starting at 9 a.m. Monday. They were one of 13 vaccination clinics across the state prepared to vaccinate 5,200 people, according to Sarah Ribeiro, the director of development with Special Olympics Texas.

The Special Olympics has been sidelined for more than a year due to COVID-19, but athletes were hoping to get their vaccinations and return to competition.

“It has been tough being isolated and working from home,” said Bruce Clarke, who works for Special Olympics Texas and is also an athlete, playing basketball and bocce. He says he’s looking forward to gathering with everyone once again once vaccinated.

While some athletes have already started training, Ribeiro says in-person events will likely begin in June with more starting soon after.

“The first basketball games will be starting in June and it will be in the Lubbock area and Galveston,” Ribeiro said. “They will be in the forefront and really kick us off and from there we will have the Summer Games and from there all the events we put on every year.”

There are about 60,000 Special Olympics athletes across the state, with more than 4,000 representing Austin.

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