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Johnson & Johnson Vaccine On Hold; Little Impact On COVID Vaxx Program

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Florida is joining the rest of the nation in temporarily suspending Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccinations, because of a half-dozen people developing blood clots after getting the shot. 

This announcement is not expected to have a significant impact on the nationwide vaccination against COVID-19, according to Jeff Zients, coronavirus response coordinator for the Biden White House.

“The J&J vaccine makes up less than five percent of the more than 190 million recorded shots in arms in the United States to date,” said Zients at a news conference in Wahington on Tuesday.

This week, says Zients, 28 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer will be made available. He adds that there’s more than enough of those to continue the current pace of three million shots per day – in turn, meeting President Biden’s goal of 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

“We’re now working with our state and federal partners to get anyone scheduled for a J&J vaccine quickly rescheduled for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine,” Zients said. “And we’re actually already seeing this happen today at sites across the country where J&J appointments are being adjusted.”

“People say, ‘what does the pause mean?’ It really allows both the FDA and CDC to further investigate these cases, to try and understand some more details about the history of the individuals who are involved that might shed some light,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House Chief Medical Advisor.

Another question being asked is one he says they’re all obviously aware of – what impact will this have on people’s attitudes about vaccines in general?

“So you might know – there have been now 120 million people that have received at least one dose of a vaccine,” said Fauci. “Most of that is from Pfizer and from Moderna. There have been no red flag signals from those.”

During a news conference near Tampa on Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis – who’s among 6.8 million Floridians who have had the single J&J shot – said Florida will follow the recommendations for a pause from the feds while safety issues are examined.

But he added that they have not heard of any significant effects from J&J in Florida.

“I got J&J; I think my arm was sore for 45 minutes and that was that,” said the governor. “I think the track record in Florida has been good. At the same time, because CDC is doing that, we’re respecting that decision; we’re going to follow that recommendation and monitor what they’re doing for the time being.”

While the suspension is out of what’s being called an “abundance of caution,” the governor said those having taken the J&J and have not had any bad effects need not worry about it.

“We feel that that’s the appropriate thing to do,” DeSantis said. “Obviously, you want to know everything – it’s in emergency use. There’s a lot of medications that people take every day that have a risk of blood clotting and some other stuff. The physician will tell the patient, and the patient can make an informed decision.”

DeSantis reminded everyone that Johnson & Johnson – as well as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines – do not enjoy full FDA approval just yet.

“But is isn’t like something that’s been used for 10 years; so I think the caution is much more stringent on something like this, than something that may have a much higher risk, but has been something that’s kind of known. So that’s what’s kind of going on here.”

That said, the governor added that people should not be “freaking out.”

“If you look at it, I think they’ve done between seven [million] and 10 million J&J shots in the United States so far; and you’re finding six [blood clot cases],” said the governor. “There’s probably obviously some more, but it’s still a very small number. And you also balance that against – how many people are alive today because they had the J&J vaccine?”

The temporary suspension is not expected to impact vaccinations in Florida. According to the state Health Department, only 37 thousand doses of  Johnson & Johnson are scheduled to be delivered this week – compared to about 550,000 of Moderna and Pfizer.