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J&J vaccine pause gives temporary lapse in vaccine supply

Onslow County started exclusively offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, and is canceling 1,100 scheduled appointments through the next week.
Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 7:16 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Health officials call it a minor hiccup in the race to vaccinate, but a setback, nonetheless.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a joint statement Tuesday recommending COVID-19 vaccine providers pause the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine over rare but severe reactions to the vaccine.

“It is a safety pause,” said Onslow County Health Director Kristen Richmond-Hoover. “It’s what we need to be doing to make sure that what we’re offering is safe.”

Onslow County started exclusively offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week and canceled 1,100 vaccine appointments over the next week after the federal recommendation.

“We’ll be redirecting those recipients to other vaccine providers,” said Richmond-Hoover. “If they would like to choose a different brand, go ahead and proceed with getting their vaccine.”

Patients with already scheduled appointments on Wednesday, Thursday, or Monday should receive a phone call with new options.

The county receives vaccine allocations weekly, so no clinics have been scheduled beyond that day.

It’s a pause health officials don’t expect to affect the overall supply of the vaccine massively.

According to CDC data, only about 10% of people fully vaccinated received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The single-dose shot can be stored refrigerated for up to nine months before expiring to be used once the pause lifts.

“This is a pause so that folks can look at the data, understand concerns and make further recommendations,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen.

Health officials only expect the pause to last a few days while federal committees review the side effects and study treatments to the rare reactions. But still, a roadblock nonetheless to the uphill battle in fighting misinformation and hesitancy surrounding the vaccine.

“Both Moderna and Pfizer are still available,” said Richmond-Hoover. “We expect that Johnson & Johnson might still be available, but we certainly want to get the input from those committees.”

Onslow County will also be closing its remote mass vaccination operations by May 1, according to county officials, because of declining interest in the vaccine. The county’s two clinics off of Richlands Highway will be closing, and they will be moving all vaccination clinics to the Consolidated Health Services building in downtown Jacksonville.

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