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Florida pauses use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine following federal recommendation

'I don't think people should be freaking out,' Gov. Ron DeSantis assures public
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a COVID-19 update in Manatee County on April 13, 2021.jpg
Posted at 9:28 AM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 16:27:40-04

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Following the recommendation of federal health officials, Florida is pausing the use and administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a pause in the use of the J&J vaccine "out of an abundance of caution" after receiving reports that six people developed "rare and severe" blood clots after getting their shots.

"We’re respecting that decision. We’re gonna follow that recommendation and monitor for the time being," DeSantis said during a news conference in Manatee County. "But I think that what they're doing is out of an abundance of caution."

The governor, who received the J&J vaccine earlier this month, said there haven't been any "significant effects" in Florida and the public shouldn't be "freaking out."

"I think the track record thus far in Florida has been good," DeSantis said. "I don't think people should be worried who've already had it who haven't had any effects."

So far, nearly 7 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The governor said many medications and vaccines pose a risk of blood clotting, and he thinks the FDA and CDC recommendation is more of a precautionary measure because it's a newer vaccine.

"I think the caution is much more stringent on something like this than something that may be, have much higher risk, but is something that's kind of known," DeSantis said. "You also have to balance that against how many people are alive today because they have the J&J vaccine."

According to federal health officials, all six cases of the "rare and severe" blood clots occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48, and the blood clot symptoms surfaced six to 13 days after the inoculations.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal director of CDC, said that anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than a month ago likely won't experience the clotting issues moving forward.

However, if you've gotten the J&J vaccine within the last month and are experiencing "severe headaches, abdominal pain, or leg pain," contact your doctor right away.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is currently the only vaccine in America that requires one dose. COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna both require two doses, however, test results have shown they are more effective than the J&J shot.

"We're gonna follow the recommendation to pause in the meantime," DeSantis said. "My hope would be that this is something that is a little bit of a speed bump, and that you would be able to get back."

Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo, an infectious disease specialist in Boynton Beach and board member and COVID-19 Task Force lead for the T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society, said there's no cause for alarm for people who've already received the J&J vaccine.

"We're talking about six women who unfortunately suffered this very specific and very rare complication," Kiminyo said. "I would just encourage those who have already received it, you know, just to, again, be wary of any changes in your condition. But the chances are that you're going to be just fine."

Kiminyo said the FDA and CDC are doing the correct thing by issuing a pause recommendation out of an abundance of caution, which will allow health experts to further study the blood clot cases and the medical backgrounds of the six women involved.

"It shouldn't hinder or stop anyone from continuing to seek out and get the vaccines, because we still need to do that," Kiminyo said. "Thankfully, we have other options in the meantime."

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One of the biggest impacts of the J&J situation in Florida will be on Publix, which has been booking appointments every Wednesday morning for that vaccine.

A spokesperson for Publix said the grocery store chain is now "suspending the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at all of its pharmacy locations."

Publix said it will offer the Moderna vaccine during its next booking window, which will open at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

To make an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine at Publix, click here.

Four federally-operated COVID-19 vaccination sites in Miami-Dade County, Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville had been administering the J&J vaccine. However, according to FEMA's website, those locations have now switched to Pfizer shots.