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Texas health officials say COVID-19 vaccine demand continues, despite Johnson & Johnson pause

Austin American-Statesman logo Austin American-Statesman 4/16/2021 Madlin Mekelburg, Austin American-Statesman
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State health officials said Thursday they expect to see continued high demand for COVID-19 vaccinations in Texas, despite an order to halt administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of rare blood clots in six women.

None of the six cases occurred in Texas, where about 500,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered to date. State health officials directed vaccine providers Tuesday to pause use of the vaccine, following a call from federal authorities.

“From where we are at this point, it appears to be an extremely rare event,” said Imelda Garcia, associate commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “This shows that the vaccine safety system is working. These rare events were reported and recognized as a possible issue that needed to be evaluated so that people can have confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine.”

More: Texas asks providers to halt Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution

What to do if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Dr. Jennifer Shuford, the chief state epidemiologist, said anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should monitor themselves and watch for symptoms that may occur beyond the mild side-effects associated with the vaccine, which include pain at the injection site, headaches or fatigue.

Symptoms that could signal problems include severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath. Shuford said anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and experiences these symptoms within three weeks should contact a healthcare provider.

Garcia said the state is receiving fewer doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week than in prior weeks. Not counting those doses, she said the state will be allocating more than 700,000 first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to providers across the state.

More: Austin Public Health loosens rules for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19

More: Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas is 'very close' to herd immunity. Health experts disagree.

How many Texans have been vaccinated?

More than 6 million people in Texas are fully vaccinated and 3.7 million have received a first-dose vaccine, meaning about 43% of eligible Texans have received at least one dose.

Health experts expressed concern that pausing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could lead to fewer vaccinations, preventing the state from reaching herd immunity.

Garcia said the state has seen an increase in the number of doses administered each of the past three weeks and that she expects that trend to continue.

Texas officials are increasing vaccine allocations to smaller providers like pharmacies and doctor offices, but have not fully pivoted away from vaccination hubs as a means of meeting demand.

“We have been working to expand the access points,” Garcia said. “That may result in some of the hubs having lower demand, even though our doses administered continue to go up. ... We know that the younger population that we just opened up eligibility to is still really big, so we don’t want to fully pivot away from our hubs.”

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas health officials say COVID-19 vaccine demand continues, despite Johnson & Johnson pause

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