ECU wraps up first week of J&J vaccine distribution

Some North Carolina sites had to halt J&J shots after a small number of people reported having “adverse reactions,” including dizziness, nausea and fainting.
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 7:09 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Some vaccination sites in North Carolina had to stop administering the Johnson and Johnson vaccine on Thursday after several people reported having “adverse reactions,” including dizziness, nausea and fainting.

At the mass vaccination site at the PNC Arena in Raleigh on Thursday, at least 18 people out of a total of more than 2,300 people experienced these reactions, but most were treated on-site and the four people that were taken to area hospitals are okay, according to officials.

Two other UNC Health clinics in Hillsborough and Chapel Hill halted on Thursday but all three clinics planned to resume after the CDC gave the all-clear, according to the Washington Post.

The people who were already there at the vaccination sites that halted the vaccine were either given Pfizer vaccines or allowed to reschedule their existing J&J appointment.

The move to briefly pause the J&J distribution was “out of an abundance of caution,” as these reactions were also reported in three other states: Iowa, Colorado and Georgia.

The CDC said the COVID-19 vaccines are “safe and effective” and did not find any safety issues or reasons for concern with the J&J vaccine. They’ll continue to further evaluate and work with the state health department.

Health departments can continue to administer the J&J vaccine and the vaccination site at East Carolina University wrapped up its first week administering the single-shot vaccine on Friday.

ECU Student Health Services Director Dr. LaNika Wright reminded the public of the common side effects of all three COVID-19 vaccines offered in the U.S.

“It is not uncommon for people to have the sensation of feeling the need to faint or feeling lightheaded, that is a very common reaction to any injection,” Wright said. “Side effects later may include flu-like symptoms where you have body aches, headache, fatigue, chills, that type thing.”

Wright said the side effects are signs your body is building protection.

“The flu-like symptoms that you have, that’s your body practicing to fight the virus. Your body is mounting an immune response. And so if you have that, that doesn’t mean anything’s wrong, that means, hey this vaccine is working, my body is really fighting this off.”

Vidant Health receives and administers all three of the authorized vaccines and they echoed the CDC’s statement that they are “safe and effective.”

“Vidant Health will follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services,” Vidant Health said. “Vidant receives and administers all three of the authorized vaccines, which are proven to be safe and effective. Mild side effects in a small number of people are consistent with what is expected. The vaccine offers our greatest hope in the fight against COVID-19 and we encourage people to receive their vaccine as soon as possible for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.”

Despite the halt at vaccination sites in other parts of the state and not in eastern North Carolina, residents who were hesitant before about getting the COVID-19 vaccine shared what made their decision.

“I also consulted all my doctors before I came,” Lorraine Shinn, 77, said. “And I guess this is as good as it’s gonna get and I’m comfortable with that one.”

Irmin Gardabaluis of Robersonville said she did research before getting the vaccine. She said she didn’t have a preference but the J&J was offered at the time of her appointment in March.

“It helps people to protect themselves,” Gardabaluis said. “We’ve been having vaccines for a long long time, so why is this different?”

Hadley Cressman, who is a senior at ECU, said she got the vaccine so that she doesn’t have to worry about scheduling an appointment for the second-dose when she goes back home in New Jersey.

“I think the vaccine is the vaccine so hopefully I think it’s gonna work just as well as the other one.”

Wright said they had a pretty good turnout after a week, and wanted to distribute the J&J vaccine so students don’t have to worry about finding a place once they got home to get a second dose. It was also allotted to them.

Wright said flu-like symptoms can last about half a day or 24 hours but it’s usually short-lived. After getting the shot, you should rest, pay attention to your body, take Tylenol and ibuprofen as needed and contact your physician if you have any concerns.

Johnson and Johnson said in a statement that when they receive reports of “adverse events in individuals receiving our medicines and vaccines, we collect necessary information and carefully assess the events.”

The ECU vaccine clinic will not be at Minges Coliseum next week and move to the Croatan on campus starting April 12.

Wright said they’ll operate Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are available but they’re taking walk-ins and it’s open to the public.

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