Health Officials Continue to Support COVID Vaccines Despite Pause in J&J
Hawai‘i health officials continue to support COVID-19 vaccinations in the wake of federal health agencies announcing the pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine.
The US Centers for Disease Control and US Federal Drug Administration announced Tuesday, April 13, that they were advising holding off on continuing to use the J&J vaccine due to reports of serious blood clot cases in six of the recipients in the US.
There are no reports of anyone in Hawai‘i developing blood clots after receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“We’re are pausing out of an abundance of caution. Vaccine safety is of the utmost importance,” said Elizabeth Char, director of the Hawai‘i Department of Health. “The risk of developing a blood clot is very low. About 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been administered in the United States. Six people have developed blood clots.”
The blood clots, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, occurred in women ages 18 to 48. Symptoms developed six to 13 days after vaccination.
People who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the past few weeks should monitor themselves for symptoms and contact their healthcare provider if they experience a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath.
On Saturday, April 10, the US Department of Veterans Affairs Kona clinic administered J&J vaccines to veterans.
The VA has vaccinated 11,000 veterans, along with their spouses and caregivers statewide. Only 10% of those inoculated were given the J&J shot, said Amy Rohlfs VA public affairs officer.
At this point, Rohlfs said, the VA has been reaching out directly to all female veterans who’ve received the shot and advising them to go to an emergency room or come to a VA clinic if they begin to experience symptoms.
“We don’t want this to scare the veterans,” Rohlfs said. “We still believe in the safety of getting a vaccine.”
Rohlfs said the VA has plenty of Moderna vaccinations to provide people at this time.
The CDC and FDA will be reviewing the data involving the six blood clot cases. Some vaccination providers scheduled to administer Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the coming days may offer Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead, the DOH stated.
“I still have confidence in the vaccine. These adverse events appear to be extremely rare, but this transparent and deliberate pause ensures the medical community is aware of the potential adverse events.” Char said.
The hospitals on the Big Island have been primarily administering the Pfizer vaccine. Judy Donovan, spokeswoman for Kona Community Hospital, said despite the pause, they still have confidence in the J&J vaccine and strongly support a one-dose vaccine.
“We trust the science and the community should trust the science,” Donovan said. “The best way to get in front of this pandemic and getting life back to normal is for the public to trust the vaccine.”
While Donovan agreed that the issues people are having with the J&J vaccine aren’t good, the cases are few.