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Carilion doctor weighs in on J&J vaccine pause

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 4:54 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The U.S. put Johnson and Johnson COVID vaccinations on pause after at least six women, out of more than seven million people vaccinated with the J&J shot, sustained blood clots.

Dr. Chad Alvarez with Carilion Clinic said this temporary stoppage proves the safety of American medicine.

“This isn’t a recall and is a voluntary pause of the vaccine and I think that in the long run, it’ll be beneficial for everyone,” said Alvarez, Carilion’s senior director of retail pharmacy.

He also emphasized there’s still no direct link between the vaccine and blood clots: “We don’t know any underlying factors or any pattern at all.”

Alvarez said the people who suffered from blood clots developed symptoms six to 13 days after their shots.

He said if you experience severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of your shot, contact your doctor.

“This was six cases. The risk is extremely low and rare,” said Alvarez.

Virginia only received 14,800 J&J shots this week, significantly fewer doses than Pfizer or Moderna.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) is remaining optimistic about vaccination efforts in the commonwealth.

“Hopefully it’s just a small setback that we will overcome,” he said Tuesday.

That setback should not deter Virginians from getting the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, according to Dr. Alvarez.

He explained those are mRNA vaccines and work differently than the viral vector J&J shot.

“It’s really just about delivery,” said Alvarez. “They’re doing the same thing; they’re teaching your body to make the same spike protein, but how they deliver it to your body is just a little bit different.”

Carilion and the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts will host a large vaccination event Saturday, where Pfizer shots will be distributed.

There are still appointments available for that clinic.

You can find vaccines near you here.

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