Johnson & Johnson pause forcing some Western New Yorkers to call an audible

Local News

SPRINGVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – Paul Baczkowski was feeling lucky on Monday. He specifically sought out an appointment for a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and found one at the Walmart in Springville for 8:20 a.m. on Tuesday.

“I had previously made up my mind that I wanted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” he said.

So he left his Orchard Park home for Route 219, on his way to Springville.

“When I got to Walmart, they told me they were no longer administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Baczkowski said.

What he didn’t know when he left his driveway is that just about an hour earlier, the FDA and CDC announced they were recommending a pause on the administration of Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The agencies said in a joint statement out of more than 6.8 million shots, six women had experienced a “rare and severe type of blood clot”. It’s called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis.

“They occurred in an unusual part of the body, namely the veins draining the brain and the skull,” explained Dr. John Crane, an infectious disease expert at the U.B. Jacobs School of Medicine.

The CDC says it will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Wednesday to review the cases. FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said Tuesday she believed the pause would likely last a “matter of days”.

“Although it’s a very very small potential, the FDA is erring on the side of caution,” Baczkowski opined. He said it was “disheartening” initially when he was told he couldn’t get the shot Tuesday. Instead, he made an appointment to get a dose of the Moderna vaccine Wednesday.

Baczkowski is just one of the Western New Yorkers who are forced to change their vaccination plans because of this pause. Kathy Sautter, a spokesperson for Tops, said several hundred appointments this week are impacted in the grocery chain’s pharmacies in Western New York and Pennsylvania.

“We’re going to try to reschedule those appointments for them as soon as we receive Moderna,” Sautter said. “We are encouraging those individuals that if they can get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine elsewhere to do so. It’s most important to get vaccinated.”

In a statement on its website, Wegmans said all Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointments have been canceled. A spokesperson said the chain will continue to offer the other two vaccines where available.

“It will make it even more important that the two other vaccines stay at full speed in their production and maybe even increase their rate of production, if they are able to do so safely,” Dr. Crane said of the Johnson & Johnson development.

Crane also expressed concern about what the news may do to public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.

“It might have a negative effect in people that are not really listening carefully, not paying attention,” he said. “Because they might think all the vaccines across the board are affected by this.”

It isn’t impacting Baczkowski’s confidence.

“Absolutely not. Any vaccine is better than no vaccine,” he said.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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