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Trouble with the ‘curve’: Mayor attempts to get ahead of the J&J vaccine pause

A vial and sryinge are seen in front of a displayed Johnson & Johnson logo in this illustration taken January 11, 2021.
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The city’s massive vaccination rollout, over 5 million doses administered so far, has hit a serious snag as Johnson & Johnson goes under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for possible health related risks from their one-shot vaccine. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio is seemingly corralling all the city’s resources to get out ahead of any impending fear and vaccine hesitancy, in his latest morning briefing this Wednesday, after being forced to reschedule about 4,000 vaccine appointments since the CDC’s announcement.

“Last week, biggest week we’ve ever had, 550,000 doses given in one week,” said de Blasio. “But, let’s be blunt, yesterday we were thrown a curveball with news about Johnson & Johnson, which I hope and believe will be a very temporary pause.”

De Blasio vowed that the city’s over 600 vaccination sites will keep going with vaccinations from Pfizer and Moderna, and monitor all information from health authorities about the J&J vaccine.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi said that there have been a lot of questions about the J&J curveball. 

“Adverse events are reported to a national database precisely so that we can monitor for patterns that call for greater study, which is what the federal government is doing right now. This monitoring acts as a highly sensitive warning system. The decision to pause means our government is following the science and making safety the utmost priority,” said Chokshi.

Both the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a joint statement yesterday, that as of April 12, six reported U.S. cases, out of more than 6.8 million J&J doses, have resulted in a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals who got the shots.

The agencies reported that all six cases were found in women between the ages of 18 and 48 with symptoms, such as severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath, showing up 6 to 13 days after getting their vaccine. 

They also noted that the specific type of blood clots seen “may be dangerous” to treat with the standard anticoagulant drug and require alternative treatments. One woman has died from the vaccine’s blood clot complications so far.

Chokshi said vaccines have always come with side effects but largely authorized vaccines protect against diseases. 

He clarified that people in the city who had already booked appointments for the J&J vaccine will keep the same appointment but will receive Pfizer or Moderna vaccines going forward.

“We did have to reschedule about 4,000 people yesterday. Those New Yorkers received messages about new appointments for later this week,” said Chokshi.

He also said that the homebound seniors program is suspended through this Sunday, and the city is currently rescheduling appointments and looking to arrange transport for seniors to a nearby vaccine site wherever possible. Chokshi added that early on seniors were prioritized in the vaccine efforts and on average the rate for seniors being admitted to the hospital has dropped by about 51% since mid-January.

De Blasio said that the “life saving” vaccines are responsible for protecting the most vulnerable populations and is doubling down on efforts.

“For New Yorkers like me, like the Mayor, who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, I do want to assure you that it is extremely unlikely that you will experience anything like the adverse event that has been reported,” said Chokshi.

However, Chokshi said that if you do experience the symptoms after three weeks of getting the vaccine, call your doctor just in case.

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