Vaccinators pivot after J&J pause

Local vaccine providers are scrambling after the CDC pauses the use of J&J's COVID vaccine.

Local vaccine providers are swiftly moving away from clinics featuring the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after federal authorities advised putting a pause on their use.

What Happened: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday recommended vaccine providers pause the use of J&J’s vaccine while it investigates problems reported by several vaccine recipients.

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Six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed unusual blood clots after receiving the J&J vaccine. One of those people died. While the incidents are overwhelmingly rare, federal health authorities want to know more about the problems before resuming vaccinations.

What Is Happening: Kalamazoo County’s Department of Health and Community Services (KCHCS) immediately put a halt on planned clinics that would have used the J&J vaccine. At the same time, Western Michigan University shifted to providing vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech.

“We take this recent development very seriously and we will continue to review the data and follow the recommendations given by our state and federal partners regarding vaccine management and distribution,” said county Health Officer Jim Rutherford in a statement.

He said the county will contact patients whose appointments have been postponed in order to reschedule.

The situation throws a wrench in the county’s plans to ramp up vaccinations. Just a day before, the county had announced ambitious plans to get up to 10,000 people vaccinated per week – partly using the J&J vaccines.

Is It Safe?: In the meantime, health experts insist COVID vaccines are safe. The incidents of blood clots are exceedingly rare. Of the 4,015 people who have received the J&J vaccine in Kalamazoo County, none have reported clotting issues.

The other two vaccines in use – produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – employ an entirely different mechanism from the J&J vaccine and so far have not resulted in any severe health issues.

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