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Bay Area Counties May Soon Distribute Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Again

Bay Area counties are on the cusp of distributing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again but are waiting for a final evaluation to do so.

On Friday, the FDA and CDC lifted the recommended pause on the use of the J&J vaccine after a panel of experts voted to put it back in distribution. But Bay Area counties have yet to restart distribution of the single-dose shot.

The San Francisco COVID Command Center says it currently has 700 doses of the J&J vaccine. And while they agree with the expert panel’s “findings that the risks of developing the rare clotting disorder is extremely low” and that they believe the county is capable of continuing to safely administer the shot, San Francisco will wait for the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to complete its evaluation of the shot’s safety.

Other counties are following suit, including San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup is made up of health experts from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, brought together by the governors of those states.

The California Department of Public Health said Saturday that they anticipate the Workgroup’s approval of the J&J vaccine sometime over the weekend.

Santa Clara County says it will follow guidance from the CDC and CDPH and restart use of the vaccine. Napa County says it plans to restart administering the J&J vaccine “in the near future.”

Sonoma and Solano Counties did not respond to KQED’s questions about restarting the J&J vaccine in time for publication.

“Alameda County and City of Berkeley will align with other Bay Area counties and will plan to resume the use of our modest, existing supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as quickly as possible,” the Alameda County Public Health Department said in a statement Friday.

In the statement, the county said they agree that “the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine far outweigh the risks” and re-upped the reminder that “the best vaccine is the first one offered to them.”

“San Mateo County says it has 1,220 doses on hand. County officials noted that the J&J has been “used for all populations generally” but has been beneficial for use on “targeted populations” including people who are homeless or homebound because it only requires one shot.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County public health officials went ahead with telling vaccine providers they could resume administering Johnson & Johnson doses, if they give out an updated fact sheet about the vaccine to recipients.

Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county’s Department of Public Health, says the county has been working on developing additional materials to explain the rare blood clotting issue that prompted the J&J vaccine pause on April 13. Those materials will include signs and symptoms to be aware of, he says.

—KQED’s Julie Chang, Associated Press

Copyright 2021 KQED