‘The benefits far outweigh the risks’: Doctors, MDH officials talk about impact of pause on J&J vaccine

The pause or the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is over.

Medical doctors, along with the Minnesota Department of Health, are applauding the move.

"I think it’s great news," declares Dr. Venkat Iyer, Allina Health’s Medical director for medical specialties. "People over the age of 18 should be able to get this vaccine. The only addition was that they put a word of caution in their caution statement."

"I think that based on all the evidence that I’ve heard today, that this vaccine is safe for people to protect them against COVID-19-19," adds KSTP Medical Expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou. "I do think it’s safer for some populations rather than others."

Friday evening, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers For Disease Control lifted the eleven-day pause.

A CDC spokesperson says healthcare providers could resume Johnson & Johnson shots as early as Saturday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, "I do think that there are plenty of people of are interested in the J & J vaccine, if just for convenience, as well as for a single dose option."

"It’s rare enough that it’s a one in a million chance you can get this blood clot either in the brain or somewhere else," Iyer says.

The CDC warning is designed to help younger women decide if they should use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or try something else.

The pause was triggered by rare cases of blood clots in vaccine recipients — all woman, most of them under 50 years old.

"When the J & J vaccine was first put on pause, there were six cases of these blood clots being identified in people," Georgiou explains. "Today it was disclosed there were 15 people that had those blood clots. This is an even more serious type of blood clot, because the underlying mechanism of the blood clot is completely different than the more typical type of blood clots we can treat with blood thinners."

The CDC calls the condition ‘cerebral venous sinus thrombosis.’

The blood clots have low platelet counts. In a dozen cases, doctors say, the clots occurred near the surface of the brain.

But experts point out those reactions are rare.

The 15 cases were documented out of a total of 8 million Johnson & Johnson shots given.

"The benefits far outweigh the risks," Iyer says. "Getting the vaccine and taking the risk of rare blood clots is much better than not taking the vaccine, getting COVID-19, and increasing your risk by seven to ten-fold."

The Department of Health is also calling the announcement good news.

MDH says just before the pause, it sent out 9,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Minnesota health care providers.

They say those doses have been in storage and should be available in the coming days.

MDH also says the federal supply is expected to pick up in the weeks ahead.

Georgiou says this is an individual decision each person has to make.

"I think every single person who gets this vaccine should pause themselves and make a personal decision about what’s right for them," she says.