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Use of J&J vaccine halted on Nation

WINDOW ROCK

Some 4,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines were administered to Navajo people and no negative side effects have been seen, but on Monday the Navajo Nation reported it is suspending the use of this vaccine.

The states of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah have also stopped using the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and and Food and Drug Administration recommended a pause in the use of the vaccine based on six reported U.S. cases, out of 6.8 million doses administered nationally, of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine.

According to the CDC, the individuals were all women between the ages of 18 and 48 and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after being vaccinated. These cases are extremely rare and further findings from the CDC and FDA review with Johnson & Johnson are forthcoming.

“Until the CDC and FDA complete the review process the Navajo Nation has paused the use of the J&J vaccine,” said Dr. Laura Hammitt, director of Infectious Disease Programs at the Center for American Indian Health.

“The vaccine remains safe for the vast majority of people and will not cause severe adverse affects,” she said. “But a pause and data review give us the opportunity to have accurate information on any possible side effects, even these rare ones.”

Meanwhile, another case of the California variant of the coronavirus has been detected in the Indian Health Service’s Navajo Area. The most recent case was reported in the Gallup Service Unit on Monday. The first case was in Chinle earlier this month.

Previously, one case of the B.117 variant was discovered in Western Agency.

“Contact tracers caught the many people who were associated with that outbreak,” said President Jonathan Nez about the recent variant detection. “We are confident that they have stopped the spread.”

Although the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is shelved, Nez encouraged everyone to continue to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccination.

So far 246,465 doses have been received in Navajo, 210,668 have been administered, and 91,278 people have received both doses as of April 9.

The Navajo Nation reported two new COVID-19 cases Tuesday evening, with no recent deaths since Saturday. The total number of deaths remains at 1,262.

Reports show that 16,430 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 258,879 tests have been administered. The total number of positive cases is now 30,269.

Despite lax mandates in Arizona and Utah, and an increase in cases in Colorado, the Navajo Nation continues strict mask mandates, the stay-at-home order is in effect, and roads are closed to visitors and tourists.

According to an IHS statement issued on Tuesday, vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government and it is taking all reports of adverse events seriously and has vaccine safety monitoring systems in place.

To date, there have been no cases reported through IHS of the rare and severe type of blood clot seen in some individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine.

“This announcement from the CDC and FDA will not have a significant impact on our vaccination plan,” the IHS said in the statement. “Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine makes up approximately 1.5% percent of our recorded shots in arms to date and less than 5% across the entire U.S.

“IHS does not expect this pause to affect IHS’s goal of fully vaccinating 44% of its active adult patients by the end of April,” the IHS said.

IHS employees are reaching out to patients who may already have an appointment scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine and offer Pfizer or Moderna when available and appropriate.

As a precaution, if you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and experience severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within the three weeks after receiving the vaccine, contact your provider immediately.

People should not be concerned about mild headaches and body aches in the first few days after vaccination. Those are common, temporary side effects brought on by the immune system’s response to the vaccine.


About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council and Office of the President and Vice President. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at abecenti@navajotimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at @abecenti

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