The pause in Johnson and Johnson vaccines won’t significantly impact Dallas County’s path to herd immunity by June, according to the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation.
When six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed severe blood clotting after taking the J&J vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it wanted to pause its use until further research can be done. Six is a remarkably small number: about half a million Texans have received the vaccine and about 7 million nationwide have.
“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC, and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research via statement. “This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”
In turn, Dallas County halted its use as well at the county-administered vaccine site. None of the six cases were in Texas, where over 500,000 J&J doses have been administered. In February, PCCI predicted that Dallas County would reach herd immunity by June, given the rate of vaccinations and previously infected individuals. By mid-June, the nonprofit expects that 80 percent of the county would have immunity either through vaccination or after recovering from an infection.
The vast majority of the vaccines distributed by Dallas County have been Pfizer and Moderna. Only 4 percent of the doses have been from J&J; 61 percent have been Pfizer, and 35 percent have been Moderna. According to PCCI, each week, Dallas County moves 3 percent closer to herd immunity, which is ahead of initial estimates. The Fair Park vaccination site alone can distribute more than 10,000 doses per day. “While the allocations for J&J were scheduled to increase and the latest developments will pause those vaccinations likely for several weeks, we forecast that Dallas county will continue to make progress at 2-2.5 percent per week, which maintains the pace for mid-June,” says Steve Miff, the CEO of PCCI.
The march to normalcy will depend on vaccination distribution to hard-to-reach communities and by convincing doubtful residents to get the shot in their arms. There were already doubts in certain groups: 40 percent of Republican males say they won’t take the vaccine. There is concern that the J&J pause may feed that hesitancy, despite the minuscule numbers of those affected. Nationwide, 13 to 15 percent of people have consistently said they are not getting the vaccine, but the number of those who want to “wait and see” has decreased from 39 percent to 17 percent since last December. According to a March Kaiser Health News survey, more than 60 percent of the country has already received the vaccine or is hoping to get it as soon as possible.
A collaboration between Dallas Fire-Rescue and Meals on Wheels to distribute the J&J vaccine to homebound seniors is also on pause. Three thousand people were scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine today, but those individuals will receive a different version. Dallas County received 21,000 doses of J&J’s vaccines this week, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The reported risk of side effects following the J&J vaccine is lower than the others. “While the risk-benefit ratio of continuing to use J&J vaccine in the US COVID-19 vaccination plan may still make sense given the 1:1000 mortality rate of COVID-19, prudence to understand the situation given the FDA emergency use authorization for use is warranted,” Miff says.