Hawaii to restart Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday after U.S. lifts pause

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) will resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine beginning Thursday, April 29.

On Friday, April 23, the U.S. government lifted its 11-day pause after a health panel decided that it’s time to resume the use of J&J shots, despite a very rare risk of blood clots.

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The pause and thorough safety review demonstrates the commitment we all share in ensuring vaccine safety,” Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said in a statement on Monday, April 26. “We are excited Johnson & Johnson will again play an important role in the fight against COVID-19.”

The J&J will be offered at a vaccination clinic at Windward Community College on April 26, May 4, May 6, and May 11 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Additional opportunities to receive the single-shot vaccine at locations around the state will be announced in the coming days and posted here.

Anyone on Oahu age 18 or older can register for the J&J vaccine by clicking here.

Last week’s discovery of the blood clots prompted a pause in administering the one-shot vaccines, following reports of six women getting blood clots.

Out of nearly 8 million people vaccinated before the U.S. suspended J&J’s shot, health officials uncovered 15 cases of a highly unusual kind of blood clot, three of them fatal. All were women, most younger than 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, CDC advisers said the vaccine’s benefits outweigh that serious but small risk.

“The benefits do clearly outweigh the risk from a population and individual perspective,” said Dr. Beth Bell, a member of the advisory panel and a clinical professor in the department of global health at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The CDC has advised anyone who experiences adverse reactions to the J&J shot to contact their doctor immediately. Concerning symptoms that could arise up to three weeks after the shot include severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain and shortness of breath.

“The numbers were just six out of 6.8 million, and the rates of clots is so much higher for people who catch COVID who have these other risk factors,” explained Lt. Governor Dr. Josh Green. “It was negligible compared to that. So I wouldn’t worry, but a lot of it is psychological.”

Green said for those who worry that they’ll get a clot, they can get one of the other vaccines instead.

“I can tell you I have not seen anybody with this problem, and I don’t think we’ve had any reports of this problem in Hawaii because it’s so rare,” said Green.

Hawaii currently has over 20,000 J&J doses in refrigerators.

Many people preferred the one-and-done shot instead of having to show up three to four weeks later for a second dose.

A recent CDC report found about 8% of Americans may have skipped their second shot, but state health officials said they’re not seeing that in Hawaii.

“Our numbers show that at least 75% of people who’ve gotten their first Pfizer shot have already gone ahead and gotten their second shot, and about 68% of the people who got that first Moderna shot have gone ahead and got that second shot, and we really think almost everyone is going to show up for their second shot,” explained State Health Department spokesmen Brooks Baehr.

The DOH said numbers aren’t 100% because of the 21- to 28-day delay for getting the second dose, and some people are waiting a maximum 42 days to get their second shot.

“I did check around this weekend, and our providers are telling me that they’ve gotten a really good response for people to come back for their second shot,” said Green.

“I know some people say ‘Oh, there are adverse effects from the second shot.’ Really? Like some body aches or a headache, compared to getting COVID and gasping for your breath and fighting for air, well there’s really no comparison,” Baehr added.

Health officials said efficacy after one dose is anywhere from 50% to 80% and variants can bypass one dose easily.

“So get both shots and keep the variants at bay, protect yourself, protect your family, protect Hawaii and qualify for that travel exception,” said Baehr.

Vaccinated travelers will be able to bypass the Safe Travels pre-test on May 11, if they get both doses and wait two weeks, or get the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and wait two weeks.

“Now 70% of all cases are under age 50 in Hawaii,” said Green, “and we’re seeing sick people in their 30’s and 40’s in the hospital. So everyone, I’d say to you: please go get vaccinated this week. It’s a great idea,” Green added.

Click here to register for a vaccine appointment.

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