WNY doctors hope FDA lifting Johnson & Johnson pause will improve vaccine momentum

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB-TV) – Local doctors say unpausing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is good for showing people vaccines are safe.

“The ultimate goal is getting over this pandemic, and we know that the vaccine is the way to get there,” said Dr. Joseph Chow, President of Western New York Immediate Care.

The FDA will not restrict groups of people from getting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, but the updated fact sheet for healthcare providers now comes with a warning.

“And apparently, they’re also going to be giving people who are vaccinated a written statement to take home with warning signs to look for,” said Dr. John Crane, an infectious disease expert with the Jacobs School of Medicine.

Dr. Chow says having the facts and choices are good.

“What I would say is if you have options, we certainly know that Pfizer and Moderna are still the predominant vaccines that available right now. If there are options, this is where I think having choice is good also,” Dr. Chow said.

If Johnson and Johnson is your only option, he says talk to your primary healthcare provider about your risks.

The “one-and-done shot” does serve niche populations who may be tough to keep track of, and groups who care for these individuals may be glad to see they can resume using Johnson & Johnson.

These vulnerable groups include people who are homeless, people admitted to hospitals, and jail inmates.

That’s exactly why the Erie County Sheriff’s Office was using Johnson & Johnson for inmates who wanted a vaccine, and a spokesperson for ECSO says deputies will resume use once they’re cleared again.

And in the state prison system, Dr. Crane notes inmates area often transferred.

“That’s a good example because among our prison population in New York State, there are many more men than women, and many of them are older, so these are prisoners who would be able to get the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and be presumably at very low risk of clotting complications,” Dr. Crane said.

The lifted pause may also impact the SUNY school system’s vaccination efforts. In early April, SUNY’s chancellor announced it had acquired thousands of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to administer to students who live on campus before the end of the spring semester.

News 4 reached a spokesperson for Chancellor Malatras about a half hour before the pause was lifted on Friday night. At that time, Holly Liapis wrote, “SUNY continues to seek vaccination opportunities for students, faculty, and staff in the final weeks before students leave for the summer. We will offer all approved options as they become available to us.” News 4 reached out again after the pause was lifted but did not receive an updated statement by the time of this publication.

Now, Dr. Chow says another goal will also be to decrease vaccine hesitancy, and the lifted pause is a step in the right direction.

“We certainly learned more about this vaccine and can more appropriately say, ‘who is this best for, maybe other groups not so good,’ so we did learn also from this,” he said. “Overall, having this vaccine is certainly going to be beneficial in getting us to herd immunity and getting more shots in people’s arms.”

Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.

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