Rowan’s vaccination sites have paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to last week’s CDC recommendation following reports of severe side effects among a small population of women.
“So, because of the pause that was recommended, we paused all the J&J distribution at the Stratford site, and we notified those that were vaccinated last Thursday [April 8] that this is what’s going on,” said Scott Woodside, Rowan’s director for student health services. “That’s the right thing to do, to inform those people so that they can make decisions about their own healthcare.”
While there were only six total women who experienced the severe side effects, ranging in age from 18 to 48, the CDC recommended pausing the administration of the vaccine as a precaution.
“That’s essentially how we were impacted; we just had to make notifications, let them know that this isn’t a recall, this isn’t an administration of the wrong vaccine or a tainted vaccine,” Woodside said.
Woodside stated that this pause was a necessary mandate but hopes it will resolve quickly to roll out more of the J&J vaccine.
“Access to vaccines is the best path forward, and it’s disheartening to see that we’re pausing on any vaccine,” Woodside said. “I wish they would un-pause the vaccine and continue to roll it out, knowing that the risks are incredibly low, and the benefits are incredibly high.”
“It’s good to be diligent, it’s good to be thorough, but I think we should not slow down vaccination because it’s actually having a global impact at this point… [slowing down the roll-out of vaccines] will only slow the recovery process,” Woodside said.
Woodside also discussed how the J&J vaccine is uniquely useful because it is a single-dose, recombinant vaccine.
“The J&J vaccine has some unique benefits,” Woodside said. “It’s a single dose, so that alone lends itself to certain populations, like populations that are less likely to come back for a second dose,” Woodside said.
“It’s also more portable because of the temperature monitoring. So they use it for special populations, for homebound, hard-to-reach, migrant populations, students, are a great example. Students, we know, don’t like getting shots in general, let alone two,” Woodside said.
Speaking of students, Woodside mentioned that Rowan students are still actively getting vaccinated at Rowan’s convenient sites, despite the discouraging pause in the J&J vaccine.
“It was a great opportunity to vaccinate students before they left for the semester,” Woodside said. “I think somewhere around 600 students ended up getting vaccinated, another 150 to 200 employees, and then another 1,300 community members came in last Thursday to get vaccinated, during what we call a ‘pop-up’ clinic that Rowan Medicine ran, and I helped support that.”
While Woodside understands that some people are skeptical about the vaccine, specifically now with this pause in the J&J, he says that he still highly recommends getting vaccinated because the benefits outweigh any potential risks or side effects.
“I’m a firm believer that people need to make an informed decision about their own healthcare, but I would deem the side effects that we’ve seen so far related to J&J as incredibly rare and minimal,” Woodside said.
For students and anyone looking to get vaccinated, Woodside says that the availability of the vaccine is relatively widespread.
“My understanding right now is that vaccine access is incredibly easy. You can go to almost any pharmacy right now – CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens – that has the vaccine, and within days you can get vaccinated if you make an appointment,” Woodside said.
“The Inspira site, we’re working with them… they’re administering in the parking lot, which is literally on our campus,” Woodside said. “There are lots of opportunities to get vaccinated, and if anybody wants to know where they are, if they just go to covid19.nj.gov, there’s a page that lists every site, how to register and where to get it. So, there are lots of opportunities.”
Even though the semester is coming to a close in the next few weeks, Woodside recommends that all returning students get vaccinated by next semester, mainly because they will likely be required to endure a rigorous testing routine if they remain unvaccinated.
“We’ll have a very robust testing program, but students who get vaccinated won’t have to do that,” he said.
Woodside also pointed out the efficiency of the Rowan vaccination mega-site even without the J&J doses, which has provided many people with the life-saving vaccine since it opened in early January.
“I am grateful that we have the mega-site right next door, and many Rowan employees and students have been participating in the mega-site, it’s been amazing. They’re actually pumping out close to 7,000 doses a day,” Woodside said.
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