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Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine appointments have resumed in Alaska, but supply is limited

Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine.(Miranda O'Bryan)
Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 4:26 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Following guidance from the federal government on Friday, the state of Alaska notified vaccine providers they could resume distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine, but supply is limited.

The news came after an 11-day pause in distribution promoted by six reports of a rare blood clot in female patients who had received the J&J vaccine. Out of nearly 8 million vaccine recipients, the government identified a total of 15 women who developed a rare blood clot. The majority of them were under the age of 50, and three of them died.

Ultimately, scientific advisors decided the vaccine is critical to fighting the pandemic, but public health officials in Alaska said Wednesday that the pause gave them time to inform providers about the rare potential side effect. A warning about the highly unusual blood clots will be provided to anyone who decides to get the J&J shot, officials said.

For those looking to get the J&J vaccine in Alaska, appointments are available but sparse.

“You might not see a lot of the J&J vaccine out there just because ... there’s a limited supply of allocation, and so we’re really just not getting a lot of vaccine from the CDC at this time,” said Matthew Bobo, an epidemiologist with the state’s Department of Health and Social Services. “There’s been some manufacturing issues.”

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said providers have continued to see interest in the J&J vaccine.

“We’ve been hearing in this state, similar to other states, that the pause did not significantly impact people’s interest in it,” she said. “Again, our job is to make sure that Alaskans are informed, health care providers are informed about the risk/benefit ... and with that information, we continue to see people choosing to get vaccinated with this vaccine.”

During a COVID-19 ECHO informational session on Wednesday, officials answered questions about whether young women should get the J&J shot by reiterating that the blood clots are extremely rare, and encouraging Alaskans to seek advice from their primary care providers.

“For anybody who’s particularly concerned about this ... there are other vaccines available to choose from, you know, two other vaccines, the Moderna and the Pfizer,” said Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin.

Zink noted that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which are more widely available in Alaska, are a different type of vaccine and do not carry the same blood clotting risk. She also encouraged Alaskans to take into account data showing adverse reactions to the vaccines are rare.

“Consistent polling shows that people are really overestimating the side effects of these vaccines and underestimating the benefits ... I would really encourage people to ask your questions and look at the data objectively,” Zink said. “These are incredibly safe, incredibly efficacious vaccines.”

COVID-19 vaccines appointments can be found at covidvax.alaska.gov.

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