Hawaii prepares to restart J&J COVID-19 vaccines after health experts say benefits outweigh the risks


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) is planning to resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, following the latest federal guidance.

On Friday, April 23, the U.S. government lifted its 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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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 on Friday 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.

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

DOH said they’ll resume J&J shots ‘soon,’ as the screening form is being updated by the federal government.

Health officials across the state said residents can still get Pfizer or Moderna if they’re concerned about any adverse side effects.

“I think that what they’re saying is the benefits strongly outweigh the downsides for the Johnson & Johnson going out there,” explained Lt. Gov. Dr. Josh Green, who has personally put shots in arms since the vaccine rollout began.

“I still as a doctor say, be careful. I think that they’re saying it’s safe — that’s fine. I can accept that, but if you have any other serious health conditions, or you have concerns, talk to your physician,” he recommended.

Green said the blood clots which occurred in the brain were extremely rare and believes certain people should consider getting Pfizer or Moderna instead.

“The kinds of clots that we see that are routine are women of childbearing age, who on birth control, who have had historic problems with extra clots, people who have platelet abnormalities, people who are smokers and are of childbearing age, and women who are smokers have had extra clots,” he continued.

Green said people with any rare blood disorder should also talk to a doctor first before getting any of the vaccines.

The pause in the J&J vaccine did lead to more vaccine hesitancy nationwide, but health officials said the risk of catching COVID-19 or any of the variants is much greater.

On Friday, DOH confirmed there were 555 variant cases of concern statewide, including the concerning P.1 Brazilian variant.

“The New England Journal of Medicine reported on Wednesday that based on the latest trials done by the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, that it is equally as effective against the Brazil virus and the South African virus” said Hilton Raethel, Hawaii Healthcare Association CEO.

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