Health departments in Oklahoma announced Tuesday they will follow a CDC recommendation to “pause” the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for COVID-19 to allow for an investigation into a small chain of severe reactions.
State officials and medical experts followed the announcements with resounding support for vaccine safety and efficacy.
Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed said he supported the federal recommendation and discourages anyone from jumping to conclusions on vaccine safety.
“That is obviously one of the big concerns, that someone is going to take this issue and apply it across the board to make assumptions that the vaccines are not safe, and that’s just not true,” Reed said Tuesday.
“While this potential adverse reaction is extremely rare, we want to make sure we take all the proper precautions to ensure the health and safety of our residents,” he said.
The CDC said six cases prompted the recommendation to halt Johnson & Johnson shots. Six women, all between 18-48 years old, developed blood clots that are not treatable with traditional medicine. Symptoms including severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, and shortness of breath, began showing 6-13 days after their shot.
FDA and CDC officials said in a conference call with reporters that no other medical condition or medication has connected the six cases.
A CDC committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the cases and their possible connection to the vaccine. The FDA will release recommendations based on the committee’s findings.
Oklahoma medical experts including Aaron Wendelboe, an epidemiologist at the OU Health Sciences Center, and Mary Clark, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said the six cases represent a fraction of a percent of all Johnson & Johnson doses administered in the U.S.
“We still need to do investigation, but yes, they are extremely effective and still very safe. Until we have more information, we keep going,” Clark said.
“Somebody in Oklahoma is 100 times more likely to die in a car crash than to get a blood clot from the (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine,” Wendelboe said. “Also, an unvaccinated person in Oklahoma is more than 10 times as likely to die from COVID than to get in a car crash.”
Reed said the stoppage of Johnson & Johnson vaccines will not have a significant impact on the state’s pace of vaccinations. To date, less than 3% of all shots administered by the state have been Johnson & Johnson doses.
“We just need to adjust our plans somewhat to focus on Moderna and Pfizer until this is resolved,” Reed said.