Johnson & Johnson vaccine on pause

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Clinics and vaccine sites across the U.S., including sites in Indiana and Kentucky, have put a pause on giving out the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration issued a joint statement Tuesday, saying they were investigating unusual clots in six women that occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48.

To read more about the national "pause" recommendation, click here

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack addressed Kentuckians' concerns Tuesday and encouraged them to continue to get vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna doses during this pause on the J&J vaccine.

"Is this going to make it harder on those who are hesitant? Yes, yes it is," Beshear said. "It's just another curve-ball or difficulty thrown to us by COVID."

Stack compared finding six cases that could have a possible link to "finding a needle in a haystack" and said it's reassuring that the safety measures in place are working like they're supposed to. 

"Now every needle is important, and every person is critical, but in this case, they found it quick," he said. "The relative risk of harm from COVID enormously outweighs the risk of any potential harm from a vaccine."

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Indiana's chief medical officer said this is exactly how the process is supposed to work.

"This is why we report adverse events," she said. "And this is why even the pause is important to take the time to really look at the cases, to figure out."

According to the Indiana Department of Health, normal immune responses to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine include pain, redness and swelling in the arm where you got the vaccine, as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. Anyone who develops a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath or leg swelling within three weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should call a doctor. 

Beshear said he's been told there are two main reasons for the pause on the J&J vaccine: First, to see how many cases exist. Second, to educate medical providers on how to treat these types of clots, because it is different from typical clot treatment. 

For people who have an upcoming Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointment, those shots will not be able to be administered until the "pause" is lifted. Beshear is encouraging people with those appointments to call the site where they are scheduled and see if the location has Moderna or Pfizer doses available. 

"We ought to be able to make up any loss of appointments from J&J through the use of Pfizer and Moderna," he said.

Beshear estimated Monday that about 1.6 million Kentuckians had received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone 16 or older is eligible to be vaccinated in Kentucky. For more information on how to schedule an appointment, click here.

Meanwhile, the state reported 799 new coronavirus cases and four more virus-related deaths Tuesday. One death was discovered through the state’s audit of deaths from prior months. Kentucky’s virus-related death toll rose to at least 6,261.

The state’s rate of positive cases rose to 3.2%. More than 400 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including 96 in intensive care units.

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