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May 6, 2021

What to know about Johnson & Johnson vaccines in California

The U.S. vaccination campaign has been rolling along and picking up steam. Some 22% of California’s roughly 40 million residents are fully vaccinated, and more are signing up for appointments. COVID-19 case rates in the state are at some of their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic.

All of that progress, however, was tied to a continuing steady supply of vaccine doses.

Which means it was pretty deflating to wake up Tuesday morning to the news that federal health agencies had called for a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine after six women who got it developed a rare blood-clotting disorder.

Experts emphasized that the recommendation was made out of an abundance of caution.

So how is this affecting us here in the Golden State? Here’s what you need to know:

Is California pausing the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccines?

Yes.

California’s top epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Pan, said in a statement Tuesday that the state would follow the federal guidance and was directing health care providers to pause the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, “until we receive further direction from health and safety experts.”

Pan added that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine made up less than 4% of California’s allocation for the week.

“We do not expect a significant impact to our vaccination allocations,” she said.

State officials did not estimate how long the pause would last, although federal regulators have said their review is likely to take only days — not weeks or months.

Will this affect California’s reopening plan?

It’s possible, but probably — hopefully — not, state officials said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Twitter that the state was vaccinating more than 3 million people per week, and that the state was “still on track to fully reopen” June 15, as his administration had announced with much fanfare. But the plan is dependent on widespread accessibility of vaccines.

Furthermore, the news of the pause comes just before the state is set to expand eligibility to anyone age 16 and older on Thursday — a move that some experts have worried will lead to frustration, as an explosion in demand for doses coincides with a decrease in supply and strains an already-confusing patchwork of appointment systems.

In a news conference during which he signed legislation to spend more than half a billion dollars on urgent wildfire protection measures, the governor said that while this week has been affected by the pause, “our medium- and long-term goals are not impacted, because of the abundance of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.”

How many Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been administered in California?

Almost 7 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been administered in the United States so far, including, Newsom said, “the one that went into my arm.” In the state, about 900,000 Johnson & Johnson doses have been administered, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Should I be worried if I already got a Johnson & Johnson shot?

Nah, not really.

Fewer than 1 in 1 million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations are under investigation, and it still hasn’t been determined that the blood clots were related to the vaccine.

And pauses like this are common even after vaccines go into wide use to investigate further if an unusually large cluster of a certain type of medical cases turns up among people who’ve been inoculated.

The Food and Drug Administration recommended that you contact your doctor if you’ve gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the past three weeks and you’re experiencing severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath.

But you don’t need to worry about mild headaches and other flulike symptoms within the first few days after getting jabbed — those are common and just mean that your immune system is building up its coronavirus defenses.

Will my vaccine appointment be honored?

It should be, but as we’ve reported, California’s vaccine rollout has been fragmented.

Newsom said that almost 9,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointments made through the state’s My Turn appointment system would need to be converted to Moderna or Pfizer doses.

Some clinics, like ones in Riverside County, will be giving people the option to either get a dose of a different vaccine or to reschedule, The Press-Enterprise reported. Los Angeles County said providers would contact individual patients about rescheduling their Johnson & Johnson shots or getting a new appointment to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, according to ABC7.

You may want to try to check with your provider ahead of time. Or if you’re able to show up for your original appointment and you’re open to getting a two-dose vaccine, that will probably be your best option.

Copyright 2021 The New York Times Company

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