ELMHURST, Queens — The federally-mandated pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has forced clinics across the region to cancel thousands of vaccination appointments.
It’s in keeping with the recommendations of both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, but it’s left some people who’d been counting on getting a shot confused. It’s also left others less confident in the medication.
At the vaccination site at Queens Center mall, operated by New York City’s Health and Hospitals, workers spent the day turning away hundreds of people who’d had appointments. In a few cases, they were able to reschedule people.
However, most patients were like Radnerai and Basmati Oulthar.
The couple from Jamaica, Queens were told that their vaccination appointments at the mall vaccination site were canceled, but couldn’t be immediately rescheduled.
“I’m disappointed,” Radnerai said. “They said they would call me back,” he continued, but as for when that would be, said he didn’t know. “Maybe during the week.”
For his part, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that rain checks would be universally issued.
“Everyone who was scheduled to come to one of our centers will get a new appointment,” the mayor said during his daily press briefing, adding that for the make-up appointments, they’d be done “obviously with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.”
The reason for the cancellation was blood clots that developed among six women, who are between 18 and 48 in age. One has died, one other is in critical condition. But overall, there have been 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered in the U-S, according to the FDA and CDC, with only six cases of clotting.
Dr. Dyan Hes, the director of Gramercy Pediatrics, put the figures into perspective.
“It’s a 0.000088 percent chance that you will have a blood clot after having the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” she told PIX11 News.
She also said that she’s had to remind patients, some of whom are new parents who’ve recently been vaccinated, that stress over the J&J vaccine’s extremely rare harmful side effects is far more likely than having the side effects themselves.
That stress can be dangerous, she said.
“I just had to talk [to] a new mom who’d gotten the Johnson & Johnson [vaccine] in the hospital,” Dr. Hes said. “Now she has a 3-day old. I had to talk her a ledge because she’s so nervous that she’s going to get a blood clot and I told her that the stress from thinking about having a blood clot could make her breast milk go down.”
“There’s so many ripple effects [that are] much more than the effects of the vaccine,” the doctor continued. “I told her you just have to put it out of your head.”
Dr. Jay Varma, the senior medical advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said at the mayor’s daily briefing that the fact that the blood clotting cases had been detected was a clear sign that a safe vaccine rollout was occurring.
“The US has a system in place,” said Varma, “that identifies even the most rare events, things that occur one in a million times.”
Still, the situation has got some people who were supposed to get a J&J shot feeling ill at ease about doing so, going forward.
Basmati Oulthar had had a vaccination appointment scheduled for early Tuesday afternoon. She said that the prospect of getting the J&J vaccine in her bloodstream is off-putting to say the least.
“I’m still scared,” she said. “I don’t want it.”