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April 14, 2021

This week, federal public health officials announced a pause on administration of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine out of an abundance of caution.

During the pause, expected to last a few days, scientists will review the connection between the vaccine and a rare disorder that has caused blood clots. It is important to understand that six cases were reported following nearly seven million shots administered in the United States. These cases all involve women between the ages of 18 and 48.

Public health officials also will alter the guidance given to shot recipients and to health care providers about symptoms to look out for – specifically, severe headaches and abdominal pain that appear within two weeks of receiving the vaccine – and how to treat them.

If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the past two weeks and are experiencing these or other unusual side effects, you should immediately contact your primary health care provider.

Currently, these conditions do not appear to affect recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Side effects most common from those two-dose vaccines are flu-like symptoms that go away within a few days after receiving a shot.

It is expected that the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may cause a disruption to administration of vaccines over the next few days. If you have an appointment scheduled to receive a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you should check with your provider if they will be offering a different vaccine or rescheduling your appointment.

I recognize that the news about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be distressing to some, but it is important to keep these facts in mind:

  • Vaccines are intended to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus, and side effects are normal in the short term and a sign of building immunity.
  • Severe adverse reactions to all three vaccines appear to be extremely rare.
  • People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over a month ago are at very low risk from developing blood clots.

We should all feel confident about the rigorous development, testing and approval processes behind the three vaccines available in the United States. While the Johnson & Johnson pause is a temporary setback on our national path to developing community immunity against COVID-19, there are still two other vaccines widely available at community providers.

We strongly encourage all students, faculty and staff to get fully vaccinated as soon as they are able. Many locations are now offering vaccines, both via appointments and walk-ups. Orange County is sharing more details about community providers on its Vaccine Information and #IGotMyShot pages. We encourage Knights in other counties to research options near them and get vaccinated.

Armor Up, Knights!

Dr. Michael Deichen, MD, MPH
Associate Vice President of UCF Student Health Services