Johnson & Johnson vaccine back on in Santa Clara County
Duc Thaiau receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine outside Grand Century Mall in March 2021 in this file photo.

Bay Area health leaders, including Santa Clara County’s top health official, are lifting the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The county halted administration of the one-shot vaccine after reports of extremely rare cases of blood clotting. The pause came a month after Santa Clara County received its first doses of the highly-anticipated shot in March.

Health officers from the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Solano and the city of Berkeley announced Sunday they agree with expert findings that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and health providers should resume its administration.

They said the risk of developing the rare clotting disorder is “extremely low.” According to the CDC, there have been only 15 confirmed cases of blood clotting to date among nearly 8 million total doses administered in the U.S. The cases were all in females. Health experts say that translates to a risk less than 2 cases per million doses overall, and 7 cases per million doses among women between 18 and 49 years of age.

On the other hand, officials warned, the risk of dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. is 1 in 56.

“All vaccines are proven to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization or death from COVID-19, and people who are fully vaccinated are also much less likely to be contagious or transmit the virus to someone else,” health officers said in a news release Sunday. “The longer you wait to get vaccinated, the greater the risk of contracting COVID-19, and infecting a friend, loved one or coworker.”

The CDC and FDA announced Friday they would accept the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendations to lift the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for all adults.

People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should contact their health care provider if they develop severe symptoms of headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination, experts said.

The decision to resume the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes days after health officials announced one million Santa Clara County residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine.

The county has an overall high vaccine acceptance rate, with an estimated “hesitancy rate” of less than 10 percent.

“The closer we get, the safer we are,” COVID-19 Testing Officer Marty Fenstersheib said last week. “Hopefully we get everyone vaccinated in the next several months.”

The county’s goal is to vaccinate 85% of its residents by August.

Despite Santa Clara County receiving a federal allocation of tens of thousands of additional vaccine doses, which allows officials to inoculate up to 200,000 residents per week, a San José Spotlight data analysis shows the county lags behind in vaccination rates compared to neighboring counties.

As of Saturday, nearly 580,000 county residents have been fully vaccinated — about 36% of the population. The county had 117,755 total COVID-19 cases and 2,043 deaths.

Santa Clara County health officials encourage residents to visit www.sccfreevax.org to make appointments. Due to the county’s “no wrong door” policy, residents can make an appointment anywhere that is most convenient for them.

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