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Quad Cities Halts Use of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Marianna Bacallao, WVIK News

Distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has stopped in the Quad Cities, following the discovery of a rare side effect. Out of nearly 7 million recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 6 people have developed blood clots, one of whom died as a result.

Dr. Louis Katz of the Scott County Health Department says the health departments are pausing out of an abundance of caution, but he expects the pause to last days, not weeks.

“At the rate that we see this, the risk from COVID still remains far higher in almost all circumstances than the risk from the J&J vaccine. As a male aged 70, if I hadn’t already been vaccinated, and I was offered the J&J vaccine today, knowing what I know, I would roll up my sleeve and take it.” 

Katz says Moderna and Pfizer, the two coronavirus vaccines that use mRNA, do not pose similar risks. While it hasn’t been proven, his data suggests a connection between side effects in AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

“Rare patients immunized with the J& J vaccine, in addition to making an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, make an immune response that activates their platelets, causing spontaneous blood clotting.”

But Katz says that’s not the definitive answer. Sophisticated testing is still needed before doctors fully understand the cause of these side effects.

For the roughly 4,000 people who have taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the Quad Cities, Katz says to watch for new shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe headaches 7 to 21 days after immunization.

The Rock Island County Health Department will switch from Johnson & Johnson to Moderna for Thursday’s vaccination clinic at the Camden Centre in Milan. 

Marianna Bacallao is WVIK Quad Cities NPR's 2020-2021 Fellowship Host/Reporter. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Mercer University's Center for Collaborative Journalism and served as Editor-in-Chief for the student newspaper, The Cluster.
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