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Health officials pause use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine in WA

Boxes of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Budapest, Hungary, on April 13, 2021.
Szilard Koszticsak
MTI via AP
Boxes of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Budapest, Hungary, on April 13, 2021.

The Washington Department of Health is immediately pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine following reports of blood clots.

In a media briefing Tuesday, state health officials emphasized over and over that the potential for blood clots associated with the vaccine is extremely rare – just one in 6 million.

However, Secretary of Health Umair Shah says if you received the Johnson & Johnson shot in the past three weeks, you should take some precautions.

Dr. Umair Shah poses in a dark suit, smiling with his arms folded.
Credit Office of Gov. Jay Inslee
Office of Gov. Jay Inslee
Dr. Umair Shah

“We want to make sure that you’re monitoring your symptoms for severe headache or leg pain, abdominal pain, et cetera,” Shah said. “And we want to make sure that if you develop any of those symptoms, you make contact with your health care provider immediately.”

Shah says the pause is happening out of “extreme caution” and that COVID vaccines are still considered safe.

“It should not take away from the fact that these three vaccines that we have are safe and effective, and this rarity of this side effect – again, 1 in a million – while serious, it has to be reminded to everybody that this is rare in and of itself,” Shah emphasized.

Shah says the lack of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine shouldn’t disrupt most vaccine clinics or appointments here as more than 90 percent of the doses shipped to Washington are from Moderna and Pfizer.

And, he says "Vax Day," as they are calling April 15 when anyone over 16 will be eligible, will go ahead as planned.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.