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Johnson & Johnson vaccine on pause in Black Hawk County as agencies review rare adverse effects
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Johnson & Johnson vaccine on pause in Black Hawk County as agencies review rare adverse effects

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WATERLOO — Nearly 500 University of Northern Iowa students scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday were notified the clinic was canceled.

Iowa vaccine providers were advised early Tuesday to halt giving doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the state health department announced in a news release. The state agency said it will not receive doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the federal government for the next two weeks.

The decision came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the recommendation Tuesday. Six rare cases of severe blot clots in people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are being reviewed by the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Iowa Department of Public Health emphasized Tuesday that the adverse effects are “extremely rare.” More than 6.8 million of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine were given in the U.S. as of Monday, according to the CDC. The cases of blood clots involved women between 18-48 who developed symptoms 6-13 days after getting vaccinated.

None of the adverse reactions were reported among Iowans, IDPH said Tuesday.

Black Hawk County Health Department Director Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye said the county had received about 5,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of last week. Some of the first to get the vaccine were Tyson Foods workers at the Waterloo pork processing plant.

“We have already made contact with our local partners very early this morning asking them to pause on any clinic that they have that has to do with the Johnson & Johnson (vaccine) until further notice,” Egbuonye told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

IDPH said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “represents a relatively small percentage of the allocation Iowa has received to date, so at this time, the pause is not anticipated to dramatically slow the pace of vaccinations in the state.”

IDPH said it is working with local health departments and other vaccine providers to substitute Pfizer and Moderna doses for Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The nearly 500 students who registered for the clinic at UNI were told about its cancellation Tuesday morning, according to a news release. Those students are able to register for remaining appointments at other clinics this week for the Pfizer vaccine.

Egbuonye said she continues to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The county gets consistent amounts of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

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County supervisors Dan Trelka and Chris Schwartz joined Egbuonye in endorsing the COVID-19 vaccine. Trelka said the vaccine could help end the pandemic and allow people to eventually stop wearing masks. Schwartz said the vaccine is “our ticket out of this pandemic.”

“Get it done as soon as there’s an opportunity presented to you,” Schwartz said Tuesday.

Iowa was to receive just 1,800 doses of J&J vaccine this week, public health officials said. The state is still expecting to get more than 43,200 doses of Pfizer vaccine and 31,800 doses of Moderna.

Iowa posted an additional 565 confirmed virus cases Tuesday and no additional deaths.

The state has posted 3,666 coronavirus cases and 35 deaths in the last seven days, according to CDC data. The data shows that 29% of the new cases are among people from age 18 to 29, reflecting a recent trend of young adults spreading the virus.

There were 220 infected people being treated in Iowa hospitals Tuesday, a figure that remained above 200 for more than a week after dropping below that mark in late March and early April.

A CDC committee will meet Wednesday to review the adverse cases to determine their significance, the agency said.

Anyone who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and develops severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within a few weeks should contact their health care providers, the CDC said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Some Tyson workers in Waterloo got their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine March 4, 2021, at a vaccination event with Matrix Medical Network, a clinical services company.

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