Bay Area health leaders say J&J vaccine is safe, providers can resume use

Bay Area health officers released a joint statement on Sunday saying they support the decision made by federal and state officials to resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. 

Public health officers representing the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Solano, and the city of Berkeley, said providers can restart vaccinations with the one-shot vaccine.

They said they concur with findings from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and scientific experts from the  Western States Scientific Safety Review group that said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe. 

The FDA and CDC on Friday called for the 11-day pause on the vaccine to be lifted after federal regulators reviewed data on blood clots and assess risks associated with the vaccine.

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Out of nearly 8 million people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 15 women developed these blood clots. The San Francisco Chronicle reported one man got blood clots about a week after he got a shot. 

Bay Area health leaders agree that the "risk of developing the rare clotting disorder is extremely low." 

In San Francisco, the city currently has 700 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, ready to roll out as soon as new state-provided fact sheets are issued and accessible at all vaccine sites, making clear the known side effects.

Mayor London Breed tweeted that ending the pause on Johnson & Johnson shots is "good news."

She got her single-dose vaccine on March 16.

In the Tenderloin, UCSF's Dr. Margot Kushel relies on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine at the pop-up vaccine site she helps run. She says the Johnson & Johnson shot is overwhelmingly more popular among the vulnerable groups she's focused on reaching, particularly those experiencing homelessness or who are formerly homeless. When offered a different vaccine, she said some asked to wait for Johnson and Johnson.

"That really spoke to me about how important it is for this population to have the J and j, the one dose, not to worry about the side effects twice or coming back for a second time," Kushel said.

 Kaiser Permanente is not immediately resuming Johnson and Johnson shots.

 In a statement, a Kaiser Permanente spokesperson said, "before we resume use of the vaccine, we will be reviewing all available data, including forthcoming interim clinical considerations from the CDC. This process will ensure that physicians and patients have the necessary information for the safe and effective use of the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine."

Kushel said her team working at the Tenderloin walk-in vaccination site outside Glide Memorial Church will decide on Monday on how soon they can bring back Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

"The evidence is in, the scale of risk is really small," Kushel said. "These vaccines save lives. they're incredibly effective. They're incredibly safe."