Johnson & Johnson vaccinations resume in Tampa Bay area as doctors weigh in on safety concerns

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Posted at 6:53 PM, Apr 26, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed once again after a brief pause over concerns of severe blood clots. People in the Tampa Bay area are already rolling up their sleeves for this vaccine, while local doctors explain what you need to know about the J&J shot.

Both Laurie and Leland Massee got their J&J dose at the Tampa Greyhound Track vaccination site Monday.

“You don’t have to come back for the second shot, and it’s supposed to do the same thing, so why not?” said Laurie.

Despite people's concerns over rare reported events, the couple explained they think the benefits outweigh the risks.

“The accident rate on I-275 is higher than the blood clot rate on this vaccine,” said Leland. “Not scared to drive here, not scared to drive back, not scared to get the shot.”

Still, some people may have reservations about this vaccine. The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll found 73 percent of those not yet vaccinated said they were unwilling to accept a Johnson & Johnson shot, while just 46 percent of people think it’s very or somewhat safe.

The CDC says there have been 15 reports of womenwho got the J&J vaccine and later developed a serious condition involving blood clots with low platelets. As of Friday, the agency says more than 8 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been given in the US.

ABC Action News asked Dr. Rachel Irby, an infectious disease physician at Largo Medical Center, about these rare cases.

“When the data was really evaluated by all the players that be, the NIH and CDC, they said the risk is still so much lower than the risk of getting a similar clotting event from coronavirus itself, that it’s clear that the vaccine is better than getting coronavirus,” said Irby.

Dr. Michael Teng, an associate professor with USF Health, said the risk is very small, while also pointing out the effectiveness of the vaccines.

“Vaccination seems to protect against severe disease, even in those very rare cases where you get breakthrough infections,” said Teng. “Some people that were vaccinated got reinfected. They didn’t even know they were reinfected because they were completely asymptomatic.”

As far as where you can find the J&J vaccine in the Tampa Bay area, CVS said they expect to make appointments available at stores currently holding the J&J vaccines starting this week.

On Monday, the Tampa Greyhound Track vaccination site had Pfizer first doses and Johnson and Johnson available, along with Pfizer second doses, too.

Right now, site coordinators said people can choose for their first dose, though they don’t know how long that will last, however they stand ready to field any questions someone might have.

“The staff here is fully informed to ask all the questions of anyone who comes through that might be in that age range where they might be susceptible to some side effects,” said Holly Hollingsworth, the Fed site lead at the Tampa Greyhound Track site.