State epidemiologist talks vaccine hesitancy amid J&J pause

KNWA

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha sat down with us and answered our questions about vaccine hesitancy amid paused J&J vaccine distribution.

KNWA/FOX24 asked Dr. Dillaha: “Last we heard, all of these cases of blood clots were in women. Have we learned anything new about the cases and their potential link to the J&J vaccine?

Well, of course, the studies and investigations are ongoing and that is why the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices decided not to take a vote on Wednesday about resuming the vaccine. They wanted more time and I think that we’ll learn more in the next few days.

DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST

KNWA/FOX24 then asked Dr. Dillaha: “There have been six cases of reported blood clots that may be linked to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. That’s six out of almost 7 million doses administered. Does that merit this pause across the country?”

Well, I have heard people say that perhaps these numbers do not merit the pause, but it doesn’t hurt to get more information to make sure of what we’re dealing with. No pharmaceutical product out there is perfectly safe and that’s true with these vaccines. We really have to weigh the risks and the benefits, so the risks need further analysis in this particular situation.

DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST

KNWA/FOX24 asked Dr. Dillaha: “Is there anything you’d like to tell people now, with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines still being used. Are we still okay to get those vaccines?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have had no cases of this unusual type of clot reported. They are safe, they work very well and I encourage people if they are planning to get a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, go ahead and get a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. There’s no reason to wait. In fact, the longer they wait the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19 and we don’t want that to happen. It’s not worth the risk of getting COVID-19.

DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST

KNWA/FOX24 asked Dr. Dillaha this final question: People are still telling us they don’t know how to find a vaccine clinic. On the other hand, we have clinics saying they have extra doses at the end of the day. What is being done to avoid this kind of confusion?

Well, the Arkansas Department of Health now has a call center you can call and they will help you find a vaccine clinic near where you live or they can actually schedule one for you at an ADH vaccination event. That number is 1-800-985-6030.

DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST

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