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DeWine: Keep Signing Up For COVID-19 Vaccines Even With J&J Pause

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine gives a coronavirus briefing in January 2021. [Office of Gov. Mike DeWine]
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine gives a coronavirus briefing in January 2021.

Updated: 4:50 p.m., Tuesday, April 23, 2021

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and health officials from across the state urged Ohioans Tuesday to continue signing up for Pfizer and Modena COVID-19 vaccine appointments following a recommendation by federal agencies  to temporarily pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson shot.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggested the pause after reported cases of a rare blood clot in six women – out of the 6.8 million Americans who have received that vaccination.

“The bottom line is that these cases appear to be extremely rare,” Ohio Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said. “The fact that the CDC and the FDA have raised concerns and pushed the pause button on the basis of these six cases should give Ohioans great confidence in not only the priority that is being placed on vaccine safety, but also the reliability and transparency of the CDC’s and FDA’s safety monitoring systems.”

Ohio had directed its allotments of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to colleges and universities as well as mass vaccination sites, DeWine said. The state is now instructing providers to hold onto those doses for now until Ohio receives further advice, the governor said Tuesday afternoon.

Many sites around the state are now moving to substitute Johnson & Johnson vaccines with shots from the other two companies, DeWine said. Others –  including Ohio University’s mobile clinic, Cincinnati’s Cintas Center, the Wilmington Air Park, Youngstown State University and others – are pausing distribution this week, he said. 

[Office of Gov. Mike DeWine]

On a White House call Tuesday morning, Biden administration officials told DeWine the delay would last “days to weeks rather than weeks to months,” the governor said.

Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains effective against COVID-19. Ohioans should contact their vaccine provider if they are experiencing any warning indications for a possible adverse reaction, including headache, change in vision, shortness of breath, swelling or any pain in lower extremities, consistent nausea and vomiting, she said.

Still, health officials at Tuesday’s news conference repeatedly emphasized just how rare the reported blood clotting reactions are.

“Six cases out of 6.8 million doses is almost by definition the needle in the haystack,” Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Dr. Andy Thomas said. “We remain very supportive of the concept that vaccination is a key, critical part of working our way through this pandemic.”

Ohioans who were already signed up for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should talk with providers about switching while the pause is in effect, Thomas said.

The Ohio Department of Health on Tuesday reported 2,340 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, along with 167 new hospitalizations.

Acknowledging that the state’s coronavirus cases continue to tick upward, DeWine implored Ohioans to continue to take the need for vaccination seriously.

“The vaccine is our ticket to a good spring. The vaccine is our ticket to a good summer. The vaccine is the ticket to getting out of this pandemic. It is how we are going to achieve that. So any time that there is a slackening of any doses, that is obviously concerning,” DeWine said. “The bulk of the vaccinations have come from the two other companies, Moderna and Pfizer. So we are going to continue to push those out as quickly as we can and encourage people to get the vaccination and we’ll see what the experts tell us in regard to Johnson & Johnson.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.