DeWine voices concerns regarding Johnson & Johnson vaccine safety
BY OLIVIA VALKNER, staff writer
The largest mass vaccination clinic in the state of Ohio, Cintas Center, is being shut down after Governor Mike DeWine ordered a pause on the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines. This action cancels all upcoming vaccination clinic dates at Cintas, including the Xavier student priority day this upcoming Saturday.
The cancellations come as a response to a joint statement by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that hit news media platforms Tuesday morning. The announcement cited six women, falling within the age range of 18 to 48, that developed a rare form of blood clots six to 13 days after receiving their dose of the J&J vaccine.
The statement recommended a hiatus in distribution so a thorough investigation can be performed and any possible correlation among these rare clotting episodes and vaccine can be further researched.
“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider,” the statement concludes.
All six women experienced a cerebral venous thrombosis, a type of rare blood clot that occurs in the brain, and a low platelet count, a blood component that is responsible for forming a clot in response to trauma.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, similar to the J&J vaccine when it comes to its ingredients and its one-shot hallmark, has already been under research and media probing over a possible link to similar clotting episodes and general platelet and clotting pathway dysfunction.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been approved for use in the United States at the time being, but at least seven clotting deaths have been reported after its use in the United Kingdom.
DeWine’s plan to vaccinate Ohio college students was highly dependent on the ease and efficiency of J&J’s one-shot vaccine, as the Pfizer and Moderna shots are more expensive, more difficult to store and lacking in the simplicity of the single shot.
While the J&J vaccine was used primarily at mass vaccination clinics, including the one in Xavier’s backyard, the majority of shots administered in Hamilton County have been from Pfizer and Moderna.
While the efficiency of Ohio’s mass vaccination program utilizing the one-shot vaccine has temporarily been derailed, Cincinnati Health officials ultimately believe that the impact left by this set back can be overcome by pivoting to other widely available vaccine options.
Nearly 7 million people have received their allotment of the J&J vaccine, including many Xavier students. The news has sparked concern from members of the student body about the safety of the vaccination that they received and the future of mass vaccination plans for the university.
Xavier has actively encouraged students to get vaccinated through various communications about vaccination “priority” days for students.
First-year nursing student Maddie Dickman recently received the J&Johnson dose at the Cintas Center clinic, describing the experience as “smooth” and well-organized.
“You could tell they had been doing it for a while. Everyone I interacted with was really helpful,” Dickman said.
“It is important for [Kroger Health] to work with the state of Ohio to get vaccines back at Cintas not only for the university, but for Norwood and the surrounding community,” she added. “It is important to get everyone’s lives back on track, not just ours on campus.”
Interim Director of Population Health Dr. Victor Ronis-Tobin, offered his opinion from a university public health standpoint.
“It is important not to be alarmed by the halt of J&J distribution. It’s a routine procedure when new information about a medication or a treatment appears to have a hiccup,” Ronis-Tobin noted.
“The numbers of blood clot cases are extremely low. My guess is that within a week CDC will identify the specific risk factors and advise people with these risk factors to take a different vaccine. Otherwise, my guess is that the J&J vaccine will be returning to use within a short period of time. It is very safe and effective,” he continued.
“In the meanwhile, we need to encourage students to vaccinate, because otherwise, we will not reach herd immunity, and will not be able to stop the pandemic,” Ronis-Tobin concluded.
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