What happens next with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

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FRANKLIN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Despite the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, clinics in the Milwaukee area are hitting the play button on the two other vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna.

The pause will continue after a CDC committee met Wednesday, April 14 to discuss next steps for the vaccine and took no action, saying members need more information.

The clinic at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex in Franklin had been using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for a few weeks but had to pivot its clinic Wednesday to Moderna following guidance from the state and federal government.

"Today was originally scheduled as a Johnson & Johnson clinic, but after the news yesterday we had to pause that," said Courtney Day, health officer for the city of Franklin.

Day said staff had to call the people who were scheduled to come in to let them know they'd get Moderna instead.

"We have had some cancellations," Day said. "Some because they are still holding out for Johnson & Johnson to come back. Other people just couldn't make the return date in four weeks, so we're looking to get them scheduled as soon as possible."

Paul Wojtowicz got vaccinated with Moderna at the sports complex on Wednesday.

"It's best to get this vaccine rather than one that there might be a possible issue with," he said.

The halt on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes as federal authorities investigate six cases of a rare blood clot in women between the ages of 18 and 48.

"The six cases are in females. Maybe the FDA is gonna say, 'Hey, this vaccination can only be used in males. Maybe it's only in certain groups.' We don't know," said Hashim Zaibak, owner of Hayat Pharmacy.

Day said the sports complex is holding on to its doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in hopes that the pause will be brief and staff can use the doses soon.

"I anticipate that there'll probably be some changes to the (FDA) emergency use authorization that we have as far as what side effects to look for and if there's anybody that should be excluded, but at this point, it's too soon to know any of that," Day said.

In several European countries, a blood clotting issue with the AstraZeneca vaccine led to a similar pause in March. Most EU nations restarted on March 19 after health officials said the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks of not vaccinating people against COVID-19. Some countries have placed age restrictions on the vaccine.

"That's the biggest takeaway from this is how seriously both the UK and the US take safety," said Dr. William Hartman, principal investigator of the UW Health AstraZeneca trial.

Some federal health officials have noted that there are similarities between the clotting issues with the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines.

Hartman said pausing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine gives investigators time to look for similarities between the six patients.

"The public should be very comfortable knowing that whatever they get, it's going to be vetted completely, so that it's a safe product going into their arm," Hartman said.

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