The Johnson and Johnson vaccine faced a two-week pause following serious side-effects across the country.
But in a joint statement today from eight Bay Area Counties and the City of Berkeley, health leaders say the risk of the rare clotting disorder is low and J&J can safely be administered again.
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"On Friday, April 23rd, the CDC and FDA announced they would accept the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' (ACIP) recommendations to lift pausing on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for all adults. The Bay Area Health Officers, representing the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Solano and the City of Berkeley, concur with the findings of the ACIP and Western States Scientific Safety Review (WSSSR) that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and that Bay Area health providers should resume its administration to prevent community spread and severe illness and death from COVID-19."
The region's Health Officers agree that the risk of developing the rare clotting disorder is extremely low. According to the CDC, to date there have been only 15 confirmed cases of the rare clotting event among nearly 8 million total doses administered in the USA, all in females, which translates to a risk less than 2 cases per million doses overall, and 7 cases per million doses among women between 18 and 49 years of age. For those who have a confirmed case of COVID-19, the risk of dying from it in the United States is 1 in 56.
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The region's Health Officers also support the addition of a warning label and the WSSSR's recommendation that culturally and linguistically appropriate informational materials in an accessible reading level be made available, so that members of the public can make an informed decision:
"The public is strongly urged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. All vaccines are proven to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization or death from COVID-19, and people who are fully vaccinated are also much less likely to be contagious or transmit the virus to someone else. The longer you wait to get vaccinated, the greater the risk of contracting COVID-19, and infecting a friend, loved one, or coworker.
People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should contact their primary healthcare provider if they have concerns or if they develop severe symptoms of headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the Bay Area's Health Officers, and we will continue to monitor the situation and look to the CDC for any additional future guidance."
San Mateo Supervisor David Canepa says this is huge.
"This pandemic will be with us for a while, but it gives us greater, greater hope to return back to normalcy," Canepa said. "The J&J, putting it back into the vaccine mix, is a game changer."
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Canepa says he expects the return of J&J and a larger allotment of vaccines from the state will help keep county mass vax sites open.
He adds that while residents in San Mateo County won't get a decision on whether or not they get the J&J at a given location, it will be well-advertised when people book an appointment.
Meanwhile, at the Levi's Stadium Mass Vaccination site in Santa Clara County, residents that we spoke to are mixed on whether or not the J&J vaccine is safe to return to the public."
"I think it's great," Santa Clara resident Somrita Banerje said. "I'm glad that they evaluated the safety. I think that really gives me confidence that all three vaccines are really safe."
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"I mean, it's a little scary because you don't know the risks and whether you will get a blood clot or not," San Jose resident Nhan Doan said. "For me, my kind of thinking is that if they were only offering Johnson & Johnson, then I would probably walk away and come back another day."
"Even birth control gives women a bunch of blood clots, so I think there's a lot of other medicine out there that's worse than what we're taking here," San Jose resident Eveleen Rodriguez said. "I think there's a lot of conspiracy around it, but I think we're fine, you know."
When we reached out to the county health departments, they told us the single-dose vaccine will resume as soon as educational materials from the state are accessible so community members can make an informed decision.
This is one of those statements from Santa Clara County: "Santa Clara County will resume the use of Johnson & Johnson (Janseen) as soon we receive culturally and linguistically appropriate educational materials from the State at an accessible reading level so community members can make an informed decision. The County will provide additional information to the public as soon as it becomes available."
A decision Canepa hopes can get the Bay Area out of the pandemic.
"The governor had said that we are looking at the June 15 date, that's the magic date that we are all open," Canepa said. "I was really, really concerned that that date was a date that we weren't going to be able to hit. Now, as J&J begins to come more into play, I feel a lot more optimistic."
We will provide more updates on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine returning to vaccination sites when we receive them.
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