What the pause on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine means to north country

Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on pause. The federal and state decisions come after 6 people who received the J&J shot reported blood clots. That’s out of close to 7 million shots given. Officials aren’t sure if it is the vaccine, but they’re being cautious. Nonetheless, the halt hits here in the north country.

Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott Gray woke up to news Tuesday that he wasn’t expecting.

“As of this morning at 7:30 when we were on the hub call, people weren’t sure what to do,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have recommended a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 women developed blood clots. That’s 6 out of 6.8 million people in the U.S. who have received the vaccine.

New York state followed shortly after the fed’s decision. For now, the state will stop giving the J&J vaccine.

North Country Family Health Center had two Johnson & Johnson clinics scheduled in Jefferson County, which it received through a federal grant. One on Tuesday, and one on Thursday.

Tuesday’s clinic is still on, just not with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“We have been in touch with everyone who has signed up for the clinic. We will be offering, instead of the J&J, we will be offering the two-shot Moderna shots,” said April Fallon, marketing sirector, North Country Family Health Center.

Thursday’s clinic will be dependent on further guidance.

Just last week, the SUNY system received nearly 19,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to administer to students. A spokesperson for SUNY Potsdam says both Potsdam and SUNY Canton will not be administering the doses. The students will instead be offered Pfizer. But if they want the shot, they have to act fast in order to get their second dose before they leave in May.

As for people who were reluctant to get the shot, this pause could only make that worse.

Jefferson County Health Planner Stephen Jennings says the proof of its efficacy is in the numbers.

“We know it brings down severity of disease, and we know it reduces death. We’ve seen that here. Our case numbers have come down in the populations that were vaccinated, and our deaths have gone down,” he said.

Jefferson County did not receive the scheduled Johnson & Johnson vaccine it were prepared to give to homebound residents because a bad batch delayed shipment to counties across the state.

“Really, if this had to happen, it’s probably best right now. We didn’t get any J&J this week,” said Gray.

Both the FDA and CDC are investigating whether or not the blood clots may be linked to the vaccine.

In the meantime, what should you do if you got the vaccine? The FDA says if you got it more than a month ago, your risk is very low.

However, if you’ve received the J&J shot within the last 2 weeks, you should seek medical treatment if you experience symptoms such as severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath.

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