West Virginia leaders urge vaccination, even with precaution of pausing J&J vaccine

West Virginia officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated for covid-19 despite a pause on the Johnson & Johnson version.

“We’re seeing in West Virginia and around the country that ultimately it is critical for us to continue to save lives,” West Virginia coronavirus response coordinator Clay Marsh said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“We know herd immunity won’t happen until 75 to 80 percent of our population is vaccinated.”

Gov. Jim Justice followed federal guidance this week in announcing a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until further notice.

Clinics that had been scheduled to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were substituting another covid-19 vaccine manufacturer as supplies allow.

The pause is intended for experts to examine data about a severe type of blood clot found among six of the more than 7 million people who have received the vaccine in the United States. It is also mean to give the federal government time to advise clinicians about how to identify and treat the possible adverse reaction.

Dr. Clay Marsh

“I think on one hand, some people might say that’s overly cautious,” said Marsh, who is also executive dean for health sciences at West Virginia University.

But Marsh said the pause shows the caution taken to make sure these vaccines are absolutely safe. “I believe it was the right thing to do,” he said.

West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources, through the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System has not received any reports of these extremely rare blood-clotting events in West Virginia residents who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The DHHR will continue to monitor for instances going forward.

“We have not seen any complications from these immunizations in West Virginia,” Marsh said. “This is a very rare event, and we don’t anticipate seeing problems in West Virginia.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was a major theme of today’s pandemic response briefing led by Governor Justice.

Governor Jim Justice

The governor and other state officials have been urging West Virginians to get vaccinated. The state’s dashboard shows that 670,092 state residents have received at least one dose. And 471,901 people have been fully vaccinated. West Virginia’s population is about 1.8 million.

“Absolutely, you’ve got to take the vaccine,” Justice said today. “This taboo of being scared to death about this thing is silly. We continue to vaccinate, and we’re going to stay at it.”

Dr. Ayne Amjad

State Health Officer Ayne Amjad, who was working at a vaccination clinic today, agreed that the effort will continue.

“Time saves lives, and vaccines are available,” she said. “We’ll get Pfizer and Moderna to the people who want the vaccines.”

In West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, efforts were continuing but with some adjustments.

A “mega” vaccination clinic in Charles Town, Jefferson County, was continuing without the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, said Dr. Kevin McLaughlin, chief health officer for the Berkeley and Morgan County Health Departments. He said that clinic is using the Pfizer vaccine.

“I think we all agree that if a vaccine can help us — if the masks and social distancing and being smart about things can help us — then we should do it,” McLaughlin said during an appearance today on “Panhandle Live.”

“We all want to get there and a vaccine is one of the best ways to get the whole group and get us back to a more normal normal.”

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