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DeWine addresses pause in Johnson and Johnson vaccine

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK Katie Tidwell of Newcomerstown, student at Belmont College, receives a COVID-19 vaccination Tuesday. There has been a pause in the Johnson and Johnson version after six severe blood clotting reactions nationwide, but the other versions of the vaccine remain in use.

COLUMBUS — During his Tuesday press conference, Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the pause in the administering of the Johnson and Johnson version of the COVID-19 vaccine, as directed by the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.

DeWine said there have so far been six known cases of severe blood clot issues reported among the 6.8 million recipients of the vaccine nationwide. The clotting issues have occurred in women ages 18 to 48. The reactions have occurred within six-to-13 days after vaccination.

“The pause was to help the health community recognize any adverse effects related to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, also report any adverse effects and to manage those events,” DeWine said.

He said 264,311 Johnson and Johnson vaccines have been administered to Ohioans.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine was noteworthy as the only version requiring a single shot, whereas the Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech versions must be administered in two doses.

After consulting with federal agencies, DeWine said the pause in service is expected to be relatively brief, in the range of days to weeks. DeWine urged Ohioans to continue to schedule and obtain vaccinations.

Providers with Johnson and Johnson vaccine are asked to store their doses until further guidance is forthcoming. The state will work with providers to make a transition to Moderna and Pfizer.

“These are truly rare events,” Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health said. “Similar events have not been associated with the more than 180 million doses of the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines administered in the United States.”

He said the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will convene Wednesday to review available data and provide guidance and advice.

“The fact that the CDC and the FDA have raised concerns and pushed the pause button on the basis of these six cases should give Ohioans great confidence in not only the priority that is being placed on vaccine safety, but also the reliability and transparency of … safety monitoring systems,” Vanderhoff said.

Mysheika Roberts, heath commissioner for Columbus, said symptoms include severe headache, changes in vision, shortness of breath, swelling and pain in lower extremities and consistent nausea and vomiting.

Susan Koletar, infectious disease specialist with the Wexner Medical Center in Ohio State University, Columbus, speculated this could be an autoimmune reaction affecting the platelets that allow blood to clot.

They added that people who have received Johnson and Johnson vaccine longer than 13 days ago should have no reason to be concerned, and the vaccine remains effective against COVID-19.

“They are pausing the use out of an abundance of caution,” Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul texted, adding there were no local concerns. “We have not used it in awhile and we did not get any for the colleges.”

DeWine had originally intended Johnson and Johnson vaccines to be administered to students at Ohio’s colleges in the interest of convenience for young people planning to travel. Instead, the two-dose version will be administered in the immediate future.

At Belmont College, 50 first doses of the Moderna version were available for students and staff. Medical students were on hand to give the injections at the Tuesday vaccination clinic.

Sproul said there have been 5,844 cases of the virus since its onset, and 309 people either in isolation with active cases or hospitalized. There have been 5,424 recoveries and 111 people have died after contracting the virus.

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