Public health officer hopes to ease fears after J&J vaccine put on hold

Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel posted an explanation of the FDA and CDC's decision to put a pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 12:05 AM EDT
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The FDA and CDC are holding a review of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
The FDA and CDC are holding a review of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.(WAVE 3 News)

CLARK COUNTY, In. (WAVE) - When COVID-19 first hit Southern Indiana and Louisville, Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel started posting on Facebook daily, giving updates about the virus, calling the posts a “Daily Dose of Calm.”

“I try to put myself in the general non-healthcare person’s shoes and I’m like, I can see where this could cause a lot of anxiety,” Yazel said.

For months after COVID-19 forced shutdowns, Yazel would post on Facebook, telling people what was happening in terms of case numbers and hospitalizations, and look for something positive in it all.

Yazel hadn’t posted any ‘Daily Dose of Calm’ posts in a few months, until Tuesday, when the FDA and CDC recommended a pause of distributing the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine.

Yazel posted about it on Facebook on Tuesday, explaining the situation. It was a ‘Daily Dose of Calm’ type post.

“You know, when I saw this, I was like, ‘This is going to really, number one, some of the folks who just got the vaccine, that’s going to be stressful for them, and you know, some people who are scheduled are going to want to wonder what to do,’ and just a lot of things like that,” Yazel told WAVE 3 News.

Hey all- I'm sure many of you will wake up today to the news that the CDC and FDA are holding a review of the Johnson...

Posted by Eric Yazel, MD on Tuesday, April 13, 2021

In the post, Yazel explained that of the 6.8 million people to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in the U.S., six people have developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, and those same people had low platelets. Their symptoms developed within six to 14 days of receiving the vaccine.

“Which means they have trouble clotting their blood,” Yazel explained. “Which makes treatment difficult because normally you’d treat a blood clot with blood thinners, but if they’re already having trouble with their platelets that means you have to look at alternative treatments. That makes it a little more complex. It’s a rare thing.”

He emphasized the numbers in his Facebook post to help people understand more context.

“So, basically if every person in the Metro Louisville area got this vaccine, we could expect to see one case as of now,” Yazel said in the post. “I am not minimizing this, but I do think it is important to understand the true incidence of this.”

At Indiana’s vaccine site at Ivy Tech, 5,500 Johnson & Johnson vaccines were given out in one weekend with no reported complications.

Yazel said these symptoms are rare, but he understands why there has been a recommendation to put a pause on giving out the vaccines.

“I applaud them if there is a concern to say let’s take a pause and you know, let’s look at some data and see how to move forward,” he said.

He believes it will be a rare side effect. He hopes if anything, the Food & Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state’s decisions to put the vaccine on hold, should show the community how serious the public health community is about the community’s health.

“We’ve said it all along: we owe it to the people to make sure we are putting out as safe of a vaccine as possible,” Yazel said. “That’s one of the things I said in my post is it should build trust in the process.”

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