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J&J pause probably led to vaccine hesitancy in Utah

Posted at 5:47 PM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 20:49:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Hours before it was announced that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee voted to resume using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Intermountain Healthcare held a press conference acknowledging that the pause likely created hesitancy in those still looking to get inoculated.

"I do think that the pause and the reports of these adverse events certainly probably gave people a little pause and made them a little more hesitant in getting the vaccine," said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious disease physician with Intermountain Healthcare, during the press conference.

READ: Utah surpasses 2 million vaccines administered

Stenehjem also pointed out how rare the blood clots have been throughout the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"They're about one in a million," Stenehjem said. "You know, CDC has come out with some data, and being struck by lightning is about one in 500,000. So, just to put that in perspective kind of how rare this event is."

Ben Anderson got the J & J vaccine with his wife in early April, stating that they chose the vaccine because it only requires one dose.

"That was one that I specifically chose," Anderson said. "I wanted the Johnson and Johnson vaccine."

READ: Here's how to register for a COVID-19 vaccination in Utah

Knowing what he knows now about the risk of blood clots, Anderson said he would still choose Johnson & Johnson over the other available vaccines if he were to do it again.

"Originally, it was like seven cases. Now it's up to 15, if I remember right. But that out of seven million doses, that's just a fraction of what's out there," he added. "I still would have picked the Johnson and Johnson vaccine."

Stenehjem said health officials are learning more about what causes the rare blood clots, adding that the new findings should help relieve some of the hesitancy.

"What we think is happening is that these antibodies in a very, very small fraction of people are generating an immune response that can attack our platelets, which are clotting factors in our blood, which then has led to some clots," he said during the press conference.

READ: Counterfeit Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses seized

Stenehjem is confident the pause on J & J will not impact the statewide or national vaccine rollout, but added that Johnson & Johnson is a very effective vaccine for hard-to-reach and rural populations across the country.

"With a onedose vaccine, you could go into a workplace... and you can offer the vaccine to people in the workplace," he said. "You can go and set up a mobile clinic, so it really is an important vaccine."

Following the CDC Advisory Panel's decision, the Utah Department of Health tweeted: "We are encouraged by the outcome of today's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting. We look forward to a final recommendation from the appropriate federal authorities on lifting the pause on the J&J vaccine in Utah."

READ: COVID-19 vaccines do not appear to pose serious risk to pregnant women

The Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for the vaccine in February and will now need to update the authorization with information warning about the risk of rare blood clots.

FOX 13 reached out to some of the more rural health departments across the state, including San Juan and Tricounty, who said the brief pause on J & J has had no impact on their vaccine rollout.