COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – State health officials have placed an immediate pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution in South Carolina.
It comes as the CDC and FDA have recommended immediately pausing use of the Johnson and Johnson, or Janssen vaccine due to concerns with blood clotting.
“Our top priority is protecting the health and safety of the public. This pause is evidence of very close safety monitoring as part of the strict quality assurance that is in place to ensure patient safety,” said DHEC in a release on Tuesday.
DHEC says it has contacted providers to alert them about the pause. “In addition, we are currently in the process of rescheduling or changing planned vaccine types for events that were going to use Janssen,” they said.
“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider,” the CDC and FDA said in a joint statement.
Kim Thompson was one of the nearly 7 million people across the nation who got the J&J shot since it’s rollout in the United States. Thompson says she would get the same vaccine again.
“A lot of people are questioning getting vaccinated to begin with,” says Thompson. “If that’s what it takes to move forward then I think that’s what everybody needs to do.”
World health experts say they are pausing doses being administered to work on learning the cause behind the blood clots.
“If there are side-effects or unexpected effects to the vaccine, you want to figure that out early,” says Dr. Robert Oliverio of Roper St. Francis Hospital.
The worst cases include showing signs of severe headaches, stomach pain and leg swelling. Dr. Oliverio says so far, the side effects have only developed in women ages 18-48.
“These are issues that happen relatively quickly after vaccination, they are relatively severe and if you’re two weeks out of vaccination and you’re feeling fine, you’re out of the woods,” says Dr. Oliverio.
One women dead as a result of the blood clots and another is in critical condition. Dr. Oliverio says the chance of developing similar side-effects to the six cases seen so far is a one in a million chance.
“The rate of this issue is so low that it makes it exceedingly rare but if you have any issues you know talk to your doctor,” says Dr. Oliverio.
And while he believes a pause in J&J vaccines is the right move, he says it shouldn’t be cause for concern or loss of vaccine confidence.
“It’s still very safe, extremely safe to get vaccinated,” says Dr. Oliverio. “It is much safer to get vaccinated than to get COVID.
DHEC said this pause will impact the state’s current supply of vaccines.
The state had been receiving a small amount of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine from the federal government — about 7,000 doses a week — compared to the more than 40,000 doses each of Pfizer and Moderna each week.
“Because of this, the pause on Janssen vaccine is less of an impact in our state than we would experience if a pause occurred on Pfizer or Moderna vaccine,” said DHEC officials.
Millions of people in the United States have received doses of vaccines with very little side effects.