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New York resumes J&J shots at state vaccine sites
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New York resumes J&J shots at state vaccine sites

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Vaccine Assignment  Hickey (copy)

Nurse Kelly Sipola gives a shot to Christine Hannon at a pop-up vaccine clinic at Southside Elementary School,.

State and county officials and area pharmacies said use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Western New York will resume immediately now that federal authorities have lifted a 10-day pause on the shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration on Friday announced that the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine outweighed risks of blood clots and low blood platelet levels associated with the shot in rare cases.

The federal move paved the way for the one-shot vaccine to be given again at vaccine clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and other sites.

Niagara Apothecary in Niagara Falls indicated on its Facebook page that it would begin resuming Johnson & Johnson vaccinations Monday. Transit Hill Pharmacy in Depew had about 20 openings for a clinic Wednesday with the one-shot vaccine, according to a pharmacist. Daemen College in Amherst will offer a clinic for students and staff, probably this week, with Johnson & Johnson vaccine that the college had stored since the pause began, Daemen President Gary Olson said.

The state provided several area colleges with Johnson & Johnson vaccines shortly before the pause.

The Johnson & Johnson shot is popular with students because of its convenience, Olson said. Daemen has a few hundred doses that it was scheduled to administer the week of April 13.

“When the hold was put on, we had to pull back and cancel the clinic,” he said.

Vaccine sites run by New York State will resume use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine immediately, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced in a press release Saturday.

Cuomo said world-renowned public health experts reviewed the data and reaffirmed that the vaccine was safe to use.

“The vaccine is the weapon that will win the war against COVID and allow everyone to resume normalcy, and we have three proven vaccines at our disposal. I urge every New Yorker to take whichever one is available to them first,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The CDC and the FDA halted use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13 after reports of six cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in vaccine recipients. More than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered. Low blood platelet levels have been reported in 15 cases.

The federal agencies in a joint press release Friday said the chance of getting a condition known as thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome from the vaccine is very low.

"The data has shown the vaccine's known benefits far outweigh the potential and extremely rare risks,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, state health commissioner.

Erie County Health Department spokeswoman Kara Kane said the state’s announcement that Johnson & Johnson vaccines can resume will not affect any of the health department’s scheduled vaccination clinics.

The county’s remaining supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was stored during the pause, is limited to “a few dozen doses,” Kane said.

The county will use the existing doses, as well as future ones, for a distribution program for people who are homebound, homeless or incarcerated, Kane added.

One-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinics for the general public also may be scheduled, depending on what the state allocates to the county, she said.

Area pharmacists said they weren’t sure if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be as sought after as before the pause, when some people from Western New York traveled to Syracuse and other sites hours away for the convenience of getting a single shot.

“A lot of people just wanted the one and done,” said Barb Madison, pharmacist and owner of Parker Pharmacy on Hertel Avenue.

Some people might now gravitate toward Moderna or Pfizer vaccines instead, she said.

“You’re going to have people who are hesitant to get it at all, and now they’re even more so because of what happened with the Johnson & Johnson,” Madison said. “Now people are calling and saying, ‘Hey, I was on the Johnson & Johnson list. I definitely don’t want that. Put me on the other one.’ ”

Demand for any Covid-19 vaccine is down in Erie County, as more than half of eligible county residents have received at least one shot, Kane said.

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My byline has run in the Ithaca Journal, USA Today, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and the New York Times. I have been a staff reporter at The Buffalo News since 2002 and currently am part of the watchdog team.

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