COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Ohio has the greenlight on two fronts to begin administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine again.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Gov. Mike DeWine’s office have hit the restart button on the vaccine.
“The one and done J&J vaccine is quite special and it really gives another option to have,” said OhioHealth Infectious Disease expert Dr. Joseph Gastaldo.
Gastaldo said he was relieved to hear the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be put back into use again, adding the focus should now shift to vaccine hesitancy, which could be happening because of the pause.
“The pause that we had will feed into vaccine hesitancy,” Gastaldo said. “The same risk of clots was not see whatsoever with the MRNA vaccines. In our country, we have given over 200 million doses collectively of Pfizer and Moderna and the same safety signals for the clots were not seen with those vaccines.”
Health providers nationwide and in Ohio can start administering the shot again as long as they let patients know about the new safety warning.
Columbus Public Health Director Dr. Mysheika Roberts tweeted Saturday that it will follow guidance and begin distributing the vaccine as soon as possible. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center hasn’t determined a restart date yet.
Gastaldo said OhioHealth hasn’t received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine since March — OhioHealth is a priority location for the Pfizer vaccine.
“It’s a special vaccine,” he said. “It’s a one and done vaccine. You keep it in the refrigerator.”
The pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine lasted a little over a week while an advisory committee looking into rare blood clots six patients experienced, leading to one woman dying.
Gastaldo said the vaccine is a great option for people who can only make one appointment for vaccination and for those who are scared of needles.
“Honestly, I’m here for it,” said Cincinnati resident Hayden Althauser. “If they’re getting more vaccines out there, I’m here for it.”
Gastaldo is encouraging people to consider all the choices if they’re worried, saying no concerns over blood clots have been found in the other two approved COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna.
“Vaccinefinder.org is a CDC-sponsored website where people can go in, put their zip code and what comes up on that list are all the retail pharmacies and what they have in stock,” Gastaldo said. “Again, that is one mechanism where people can shop around to find a vaccine they’re more comfortable with.”
Althauser hopes the Johnson & Johnson restart will encourage more people to consider the vaccine.
“I got Pfizer two months ago and that was before Johnson & Johnson was out, but had Johnson & Johnson been available, I would have gotten either one,” Althauser said. “I just wanted to be vaccinated.”
Gastaldo said the focus should now be on vaccine hesitant populations, saying the top four communities are the African American, Latino, immigrant, and white evangelical communities.
“We are kind of at an inflection point in the state of Ohio and nationally where all the motivated people who have wanted the vaccine have already been vaccinated and that’s reflective upon the fact that at OhioHealth and other places, we have open appointments,” he said.
Gastaldo said all the patients being treated for COVID-19 at OhioHealth at this moment are people who haven’t been vaccinated.