HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — About 112,500 teachers were among the 262,739 people who got Johnson & Johnson shots in Pennsylvania before Tuesday’s “pause,” a Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesperson told abc27 News on Tuesday.
Those 262,739 people represent about 5 percent of Pennsylvanians who have gotten at least one dose; the rest have gotten the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which (unlike J&J) require two doses.
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Part of the differential is because the CDC first authorized J&J in late February after Pfizer and Moderna had a head start. But even now, far fewer doses of J&J were going into the arms of Pennsylvanians: Just 20,000 were expected this week, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said at a briefing Tuesday, compared to about 157,000 for Pfizer and 170,000 for Moderna. Even accounting for the fact that twice as many doses of the latter two are required to fully vaccinate one person, those figures suggest just 11 percent of Pennsylvanians were due to be vaccinated this week with J&J before the pause.
Quinn Smith, a fifth-grade teacher in the Camp Hill School District, said she was glad to have gotten the J&J vaccine despite Tuesday’s news, and not only because she got it more than three weeks ago, putting her outside the window of concern for even the one-in-a-million blood clots that caused the pause.
“Being around 10- and 11-year-olds all day, I feel a little safer. I also feel safer for them because it protects them from possibly me giving them COVID,” Smith said, adding that she felt confident enough to take a road trip out of state after getting vaccinated in mid-March.
Even David Payne, a Harrisburg resident who was among the last to receive a J&J dose Monday (in his case at a Harrisburg clinic) before Tuesday’s pause, said his dominant emotion wasn’t fear.
“More than anything else, I was just relieved that I was able to get it because I know a lot of people who, even now, still want to get it,” Payne said.
Still, Beam, the acting secretary of health, and Dr. Denise Johnson, the state’s acting physician general, answered multiple questions Tuesday about whether the pause would complicate efforts by government and health officials to build confidence in vaccines among some skeptical Pennsylvanians.
On the other hand, Dr. Johnson was asked whether if the risk is really so minimal, the state perhaps overreacted by following CDC guidance and pausing J&J — and whether (given that some Americans get blood clots every year, vaccine or no vaccine) evidence that the vaccine caused the reactions was even strong enough to warrant the pause.
She explained that the six women (all between 18 and 48 years old) who experienced the blood clots — one of whom died, and none of whom are believed to have lived in Pennsylvania — all had low platelet counts, a characteristic that’s unusual among people with blood clots. And the usual treatments for someone suffering for a blood clot might cause harm if that person has a low platelet count, something a doctor might not think to check. So part of the reason for the pause, she said, was to ensure doctors are properly prepared to check the platelet count before treating someone for a blood clot, in case that person was the rarity who had received a J&J shot recently.