Montgomery Co. leaders fear spike in vaccine hesitancy after J&J pause

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Montgomery County health officials say they had to make quick changes to nearly 1,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointments scheduled for Tuesday at the mass vaccination site in Germantown, following the FDA and CDC recommendation to pause the use of the vaccine.

The CDC reports just six people out of nearly 6.8 million individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have reported rare blood clotting issues in the weeks following their shots.

Thanks to an increase in Pfizer vaccine supply sent to the county this week, those with affected appointments at county-run sites Tuesday were all offered Pfizer shots instead. The increased Pfizer supply is expected to fulfill most of the J &J through this week, Montgomery County’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles explained in a briefing Tuesday morning.

He said the county was already anticipating a decrease in the supply of Johnson & Johnson doses due to manufacturing issues causing a nationwide supply shortage.

At this point, Montgomery County leaders aren’t as worried about the impact of the J&J news on getting shots into the of arms people who want them but changing the minds of people who say they don’t want a shot at all.

“There was already a high degree of misinformation out there and now we’re seeing a lot of ‘I told you so’s,'” said Montgomery County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz during a Tuesday morning briefing.

Albornoz says he’s seen more negative sentiments about the COVID-19 vaccine on social media since the news broke Tuesday morning.

“In the next 48 hours particularly, because social media’s already become hot, we need to redouble our efforts to educate the public on the efficacy of the vaccine in general and that the pros so significantly outweigh the cons,” said Albornoz.

Just six people out of nearly 6.8 million individuals are reporting the rare issue, and Dr. Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, wants to put that number in context.

“You know, this is less than a one in a million chance, from what the data shows so far. The risk of getting COVID is far more than one in a million. We’ve seen that play out in Montgomery County, across the nation, and across the world,” Dr. Stoddard said Tuesday.

If you had an appointment to receive a J&J vaccine in any state or district this week, local health officials are urging you to check with the provider you scheduled with, and urge you to check your email, to see if your appointment has been canceled, rescheduled, or changed.

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