Johnson & Johnson reactions are ‘incredibly rare event,’ NC health officials say

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina health officials issued what they called a “strong recommendation” to vaccine providers Tuesday to pause giving out Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine following a similar move by federal agencies.

The CDC and FDA said Tuesday there had been six reported cases among women age 18 to 48 who developed dangerous blood clots. More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the United States.

State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, who received the J&J vaccine herself last month, said no cases involving blood clots had been reported in North Carolina.

“We have a robust safety system in place, and that system is working to identify any concerns. This is a pause so that folks can look at the data, understand concerns and make further recommendations,” she said.

Federal health officials said the pause may last a matter of days.

Dr. Cohen stressed how uncommon the situation is and urged people to keep appointments they’ve made to receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, pointing out no safety issue like this has been raised with those vaccines.

“What we are talking about today is an incredibly rare event, literally one in a million,” Dr. Cohen said. “The safety system in place is working as it should.”

Dr. Amanda Fuller Moore, a pharmacist for the state Department of Health and Human Services and one of the officials overseeing the state’s vaccination effort, said the state is working to get doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines left over from last week.

Moore also said they are utilizing this week’s shipments to try to help providers offer those vaccines to people who had originally been scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“We are asking our providers with that in mind to make every effort to continue vaccinating with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine that they have available,” she said.

As of Tuesday, officials reported nearly 6 million doses of the vaccines have been administered in North Carolina. Of those, about 4 percent have been the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Federal officials said the decision to pause would “not have a significant impact” on efforts to vaccinate Americans under the goals set by President Joe Biden.

“Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes up less than 5 percent of the recorded shots in arms in the United States to date. Based on actions taken by the president earlier this year, the United States has secured enough Pfizer and Moderna doses for 300 million Americans,” said White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients in a statement.

Dr. Cohen said people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and are feeling well do not have reason to be concerned.

Also, Choen noted the symptoms among the women who developed the blood clots occurred within six to 13 days of being vaccinated. She said those symptoms include: severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain and shortness of breath.

She said the pause is meant to help health care providers to learn more about the symptoms of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and the recommended treatments.

Amid production issues, the state was set to receive only about 17,700 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, which is down from nearly 150,000 the week prior.

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