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Florida pausing administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

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Posted at 10:56 PM, Apr 13, 2021

The state of Florida is heeding federal health officials' recommendations to pause the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC and FDA announced they are recommending a pause in the company’s vaccine out of an abundance of caution as they review six reported cases of a rare and severe blood clot, that may require an alternative treatment. The symptoms occurred 6-13 days after vaccination in women 18-48 years old.

So far, around 7 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered across the country.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management said the temporary pause impacts federally supported vaccination sites, mobile clinics and homebound vaccinations.

Federal sites will continue offering second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, while the state figures how to supplement operations with Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Those vaccines are still offered at state-supported vaccination sites, as well as various county sites.

“As it stands now we do have a lot of the Pfizer and Moderna. The J&J production had actually gone down,” said Governor Ron Desantis. “Last week we had I think about 300,000 was the most we’ve ever had of J&J and that was going down this week and next week anyways. Most of those J&J shots were already used. So in terms of availability, I think you’re still going to have very robust availability of the vaccine."

Medical officials are closely watching what happens with the single-dose vaccine.

“When you’re vaccinating 7 million people it could be random chance, or it could be tied to the vaccine. So I think we have to wait for the evidence to speak for itself to see if there is a connection,” said Dr. Nishant Anand, the Executive Vice President and chief medical officer for BayCare. “I’m proud of our government for pausing, allowing us all to know that they are taking it very seriously, to fully investigating it and I’m just happy for the public that we have options that have been out there with the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine.”

BayCare said it’s paused its administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, though it received only a very limited inventory of it from the state and is not aware of any of its patients receiving that vaccine with the type of blood clots federal health officials referenced.

“It’s been an interesting year with the pandemic We’re not out of the woods and I think sometimes it’s easy to forget it. We all want to forget it we all believe that we’d like to go back to normal. The quickest path is to get one of the vaccines. Again the Moderna, the Pfizer are viable options. We’re seeing COVID increase in the community,” said Dr. Anand, reiterating mask use and social distancing for those who don’t get a vaccine.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has tracked people’s intentions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine since December.

“What we found is among people who were saying they want to wait and see what happens with others before they get the vaccine themselves, they were actually slightly more likely before all of this happened to say they would get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine versus the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. And when we asked them why the answer was really about the convenience of a one-dose shot,” said Liz Hamel, the organization’s vice president and director of public opinion and survey research.

She said it’s too early to know the impact the pause will have on vaccine confidence.

“We do know among people who are still not sure if they want to get the vaccine that concerns about potential side effects are the top things people are worried about and so while we don’t know for sure yet that this is actually a side effect that’s caused by the vaccine, I think people who are reading about this are likely to link the two things together so I think it does have the potential to raise that concern even higher for people who are the fence about getting vaccinated,” Hamel said.

People who are concerned are urged to talk to their doctor. Health officials said people who received the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine and develop adverse reactions like severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks should contact their doctor.

A CDC advisory committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss it.