Doctors say the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still needed to vaccinate hard to reach populations

NOW: Doctors say the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still needed to vaccinate hard to reach populations

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) - One of the nation’s top health officials, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is predicting Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine return on Friday, but this time with some restrictions. The vaccine was paused as a precaution after rare blood clots were found in a handful of people less than two weeks after they got it. 

Area doctors say it’s odd the blood clots are also linked to low levels of clotting factors in the patient's blood, but plan to follow guidance once a recommendation is reached.

“Strange combination that we don’t see too often and that’s something that needs a little more investigation, a little better understanding of whether it’s related to the vaccine and if so what’s causing it,” said Dr. Ben Weston, associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Friday, April 23, to decide what’s next for the one-dose vaccine.

“We’ll see what the FDA says, we’ll see what the CDC says, but it seems that Johnson & Johnson is a very safe vaccine, an extremely effective vaccine and very convenient,” adds Dr. Weston.

While some vaccine hesitancy may develop after hearing of its potential linkage to blood clots, Dr. Ben Weston says the J&J vaccine is still a good tool in the fight against COVID-19.  

“One of the things that Johnson & Johnson is most effective for is populations that are hard to reach with two different shots,” he said.

UW Health’s Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron, who serves as chair of the Latino Health Council, says the Latinx community is highly affected from COVID-19 due to the type of work they do. She says for some Latinx workers, completing a two-dose series can be a hurdle.

“Work in the factories and in the fields, and in the stores, so the vaccine is going to be one more tool that we’re going to have to help our communities,” she says. “Getting the vaccine and completing the vaccine is another challenge.”

Dr. Tellez-Giron says she hopes the pause doesn’t create fear, because for some rural communities, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be their only option due to storage issues.

“I think we need to do a good job of informing people that is one in a million and there are other things that we do in medicine that carry a higher risk,” adds Dr. Tellez-Giron.

“It’s nice to have that variety for patients to choose from, and it’s also critical to have that one shot for patients that are hard to reach,” Dr. Weston said.

In the meantime, experts advise getting vaccinated with the two-dose options to protect yourself.

“There hasn’t been evidence that there’s any sort of concern with a substantial number of blood clots or anything like that with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines,” says Dr. Weston.

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