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Black Leaders: J&J Vaccine Pause Takes State Vaccine Efforts “Three Steps Back”

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LA Focus Staff Report

Some Black leaders in faith communities across California are expressing concerns after the U.S. Centers of Disease Control issued an urgent recommendation to health care providers across the country this week, directing them to pause the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is alarming. We cannot continue to emphasize enough that the Black Community and the Brown community are scarred from decades of getting the short end of the stick when it comes to vaccines — the Tuskegee experiment; when it comes to vaccines that rolled out in the ‘70s; when it comes to the three-in-one shot that some scientists say causes an autistic reaction in our young Black boys,” said the Rev. Michael Fisher, pastor of the Greater Zion Church in Compton.

Fisher, who said he took the J&J vaccine, said just as his congregants were beginning to trust the COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC announced the pause.

“We just took three steps back,” he said. “Immediately when this broke our phones just lit up. I started getting phone calls. They started DM’ing me on Instagram and Facebook.

Officials say they came to the decision after six reports surfaced of “rare and severe blood clots” occurring in people who had received the only FDA-approved vaccine in the country that has a one-shot dose. The other two vaccines the feds have greenlighted, Pfizer and Moderna, require an initial vaccination followed by a booster shot three or four weeks later.

One of the women has died.

“In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia),” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, in a statement.

“All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” the doctors continued.

Fisher and other Black clergymen who jumped on a call after they heard the news to discuss their concerns. The biggest concern, he said, the congregants shared is that officials seemed to be downplaying the death of the one fatality among the women with blood clots.

“Until that one death, or those six women happen in your local congregation, you don’t know the pain. I just lost my mother a month ago. That’s just one person, but to my family that’s my mama. I have a right to be concerned.

The same day the CDC announced the pause, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), announced that it is adhering to the CDC’s advice. The agency is also conducting an investigation of its own into the information the federal government is providing regarding the safety of the vaccine.

“The state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup (WSSRW) to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue,” said Dr. Erica Pan, a California epidemiologist whose work has been focused on the pandemic.

The governors of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington created the committee made up of public health experts, immunologists and scientists to do independent analyses and reviews of vaccine-related information and federal approval process for the three shots.

So far, 6.8 million J&J vaccines have been administered across the United States. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has not yet provided details on how many Californians have received the shot — or the exact number of the treatments the state has in its inventory. But the vaccine, state officials say, accounts for only 4 % of the shots the state gives to people each week.

According to the CDC statement, using drugs that are typically used to treat blood clots might be dangerous in patients after they have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

“Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given,” the doctors said.

On April 14, Gov. Newsom said he does not expect the pause to “materially” impact the state’s vaccination goals or its plans to reopen the economy on June 15.
“It has no side effect whatsoever,” Gov. Newsom said, speaking about his experience after taking the J&J shot. In fact, someone asked me which arm I got the shot in the next day, and I honestly couldn’t remember.”

Fisher says he met with the governor and his staff and asked important questions that he feels are still unanswered.

“As leaders, gatekeepers in our community, we need to be brought to the table – not as errand boys – but with full disclosure. Then we can rightfully be able to make the decision about whether or not vaccines like Johnson & Johnson are right for our particular community,” he said. recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot. Gov. Gavin Newsom says

SACRAMENTO – Today the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a statement from Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist, regarding the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
“Today, the CDC and FDA have recommended a temporary pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine out of an abundance of caution. Of over 6.8 million doses administered nationally, there have been six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot with symptoms occurring 6 to 13 days after vaccination.

“California is following the FDA and CDC’s recommendation and has directed health care providers to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until we receive further direction from health and safety experts. Additionally, the state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue. As the federal government has said, we do not expect a significant impact to our vaccination allocations. In California, less than 4% of our vaccine allocation this week is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.” 
For more information about the adverse effects, and what to do if you are experiencing symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider. We will provide additional details on what this means for our state efforts as they become available.

The joint CDC and FDA statement can be found here.


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