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States Struggle With Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause as Federal Officials Reassure Public

“It has been smooth so far,” Dr. Pamela Hackert, the medical health officer for the Genesee County Health Department, said in an email.

At Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa, administrators have been able to set up three on-campus clinics this month where students will be able to receive a two-dose vaccine. Rob Denson, the college president, said he had been pleased and surprised at his ability to arrange those future clinics so quickly.

“I think we’re going to be awash in vaccine within a relatively short amount of time,” he said.

But an extended break in Johnson & Johnson availability will begin to pinch, especially in poorer states with harder-to-reach populations. A spokeswoman for Dr. José Romero, the secretary of health in Arkansas, said that “the pause should be a sufficient length to answer safety questions, but not extended any longer than necessary.

“His concern is that an overlong pause will increase hesitancy and decrease confidence,” said the spokeswoman, Danyelle McNeill. Dr. Romero leads the advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will ultimately recommend how to proceed with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The suspension in the United States may have more profound consequences overseas, where only a fraction of the rest of the world has so far been vaccinated. Dr. Luciana Borio, a former acting chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration who also served on the National Security Council in the Trump White House, said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was a crucial tool for stopping the spread of the virus around the world.

“It’s a vaccine that can be manufactured quickly in very large scale and has much easier distribution procedures,” she said. “The world needs more companies like J&J supplying their vaccine.”

Officials were counting on both Johnson & Johnson and another easy-to-distribute vaccine made by AstraZeneca to get inoculations to hard-to-reach parts of the globe. But recent reports of rare blood clots in recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine have led a number of nations to reconsider its use.

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