Mendoza, infectious disease doctor: 'Don't panic' over Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. Photo: Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

Updated: April 13, 2021 12:11 PM
Created: April 13, 2021 11:24 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — As the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is put on pause due to rare clotting concerns, both Monroe County's top doctor, and a local doctor are stressing for people to not panic over the news.

In separate media briefings Tuesday, Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Doctor Michael Mendoza and Infectious Disease Doctor at Rochester Regional Health Dr, Edward Walsh said people should keep an eye out for any severe side effects if they've received the shot within the last 3-4 weeks, but should not "lose sleep" over the cases.

In its recommendation for a pause, the FDA and the CDC reported six cases of clotting out of the more than 6.8 million doses administered nationwide.  All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48; there was one death and all remained under investigation.

"While any loss of life or serious illness is concerning, we have to remember that this has occurred in an extraordinarily minute percentage of the people who have received the vaccine thus far," Mendoza said. 

Walsh said the most common side effects were a severe headache and/or severe abdominal and leg pain.

"Clearly the risk of dying from COVID far exceeds the risk of dying from one of these very rare one-in-a-million events," Walsh said. "But it still raises concerns for all individuals."

Walsh, who oversaw clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine, said clotting could be difficult to detect because headaches are not an uncommon side effect from vaccines in general. If you were vaccinated several months ago, he says you may not need to monitor yourself as carefully.

Ultimately, Walsh says the news may make people more anxious about getting a shot, but ultimately felt the decision to pause the vaccine was a "wise" one as things get sorted out.

Mendoza said Monroe County was not expecting any doses of the J&J vaccine this week, but is putting its leftover doses in storage. For people who may have booked an appointment to receive the vaccine, the county will soon be offering both Moderna and Pfizer to those folks. Mendoza added he recommends people still get the shot.

In responding to a question from News10NBC's Patrick Moussignac, Mendoza echoed Walsh in calling the side effect "one in a million."

"Obviously it's very serious, and we want to understand more about it," Mendoza said. "But I do want to remind people that association doesn't equal causation, and right now we have an association that we need to understand, we need to see if the vaccine was in fact the cause of these side effects."

You can watch Mendoza's briefing in full in the player below.

You can watch Walsh's briefing in full in the player below.

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