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Spokane health district will resume use of J&J vaccine after US lifts pause

SRHD said it uses the J&J shot for COVID-19 vaccination efforts among those who are homebound, people in congregate settings and residents of rural areas.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Following an 11-day pause of COVID-19 vaccinations using Johnson & Johnson's single-dose shot, the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) said on Monday that it will resume use of the vaccine.

This comes after federal health officials on Friday lifted the nationwide pause on the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine after investigating 15 cases of blood clots out of 8 million people who received the J&J shot. All cases included women and most were under the age of 50. Three died and seven remain hospitalized. 

An Oregon woman in her 50s developed a rare blood clot and died within two weeks of getting the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now investigating to determine if the Oregon woman's death was directly tied to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

SRHD said in a press release that it uses the J&J shot for vaccination efforts among those who are homebound, people in congregate settings and residents of rural communities. The ability for storage at a warmer temperature and its need for only one dose "makes for faster, more efficient vaccination in these communities," the health district said in a press release.

“The J&J vaccine is safe and effective. The risks are rare compared to the enormous morbidity and mortality risks associated with contracting the COVID-19 virus,” Spokane County’s Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velazquez said. “It’s ease of use makes it instrumental in many of our vaccination outreach efforts.” 

Gov. Jay Inslee also announced on Saturday that the state of Washington was reauthorizing use of the J&J vaccine.

According to a press release from Inslee's office, the Western States Workgroup, which includes of vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, has concluded that the J&J vaccine is "safe and effective, and paired with patient and provider educational materials about potential risks, provides an important option to continue to reduce severe COVID-19 illness."

Individuals who have concerns about the risk of the J&J vaccine should discuss them with their healthcare provider, SRHD said. People can also refer to the updated Emergency Use Authorization Fact Sheet for more information.

Health officials also emphasize reporting any adverse events after a vaccine through a report to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) or v-safe, a smart phone-based tool that reports information to the CDC.

Those who have had the J&J vaccine in the last three weeks should reach out to their healthcare provider if they are experiencing the following symptoms: 

  • Severe headache 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Leg pain 
  • Shortness of breath 

Some flu-like symptoms, including tiredness, muscle pain, chills or fever, immediately after getting a vaccine are normal. 

The J&J shot was the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use in the U.S. The other two vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, continued to be available during the J&J 11-day pause.

In Washington, the J&J vaccine has been about 5% of the available shots so far.

KING 5 and TEGNA staff members contributed to this report.