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CDC, FDA 'Pause' Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine 'Out Of An Abundance Of Caution'

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Federal health officials are recommending a “pause” in the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six women who received it reported developing a rare blood clotting disorder.

Nearly 7 million people have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the U.S.

Rupali Limaye, a vaccine expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says the investigation is a precaution given that blood clots were not a side effect during clinical trials.

“The reason they’re pausing it is they want to make sure, and they want to examine and investigate and see if there are any other cases where there was a blood clotting event that happened,” Limaye said.

The investigation could heighten hesitancy among those reluctant to take the vaccine, but Limaye looks at it another way.

“It’s to also say, ‘Yay, it’s really exciting to see that our safety monitoring system is working,’ ” she said. “So to me, that really indicates that the post-licensure safety monitoring system is working here in the United States.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been widely used to vaccinate people in harder to reach places — like rural America — because it does not need ultra-cold storage to travel.

Bruce Y. Lee is a professor at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. He says there is definitely a possibility that the pause will affect rural community members from getting vaccinated.

“There needs to be a way of increasing availability of the other vaccines while one vaccine is on pause,” Lee said. “It's definitely a concern, but it does make sense to double-check and make sure that there isn't something going on with the [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine.”

In order to get COVID-19 under control, Lee says, it's critical that all communities have access to the vaccines.

“That's a major concern because as long as the virus can spread somewhere, it puts the entire population at risk,” Lee said. “Because we can have a situation where the virus continues to spread in pockets of the country and ultimately jump to other places, so we have to be careful about that.”

Federal health officials discussed the six reported cases of a rare type of blood clot in individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during a press briefing on Tuesday.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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