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Risks from ‘paused’ J & J COVID vaccine very rare: local health leaders

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) -- At the direction of the CDC, the Indiana department of health is pausing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of an extremely rare side effect.

It was found in six women aged 18 to 45 who'd received the Johnson & Johnson one-shot coronvirus vaccine who developed rare blood clots in their brains, prompting the government to recommend pausing using that vaccination.

But Allen County's health commissioner says you should put the statistics in perspective.

"It puts the rate of this at about one in a million. That's about the risk of being killed by a meteorite or an asteroid," Dr. Matthew Sutter said.

Allen County's health commissioner says you should put the statistics in perspective.

He says the state department of health has enough Moderna vaccines right now to vaccinate Hoosiers who have already signed up for the Jphnson & Johnson shot.

"We have the luxury to have two other vaccines right now, which are extremely effective and appear extremely safe. Now will they end up having 1 in 10 million sorts of adverse effects? We won't know that immediately. That's the downside. But 1 in 10 million is a trivial, trivial risk compared to what they're preventing, even in low-risk populations. So, yeah, I still think people need to get vaccinated," he said.

But that's causing problems for the independent pharmacy The Pill Box in Warsaw, where 100 patients were signed up to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday.

About a dozen people got the vaccine in the morning after the FDA and CDC recommended pausing the shots, but before the state department of health said the shots shouldn't be administered any more.

"We told patients that this morning and of the patients that came in for it, they opted to go ahead and take the vaccine. Of course, once the state made their decision, we no longer were allowing the patients to decide, the state decided," said The Pill Box Pharmacy's Bill Winn.

He said they called the rest of the people on the list for the shots Tuesday to let them know Moderna would be offered instead.

The health experts both said they would still tell a female family member in the age group that developed the rare brain blood clots to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, saying the benefits of being immunized against the coronavirus far outweigh the risks of side effects.

However, if you develop a fever with bad headaches or other symptoms of a stroke, and a blood test reveals you have low platelets, talk to your doctor right away.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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