Health officials fear J&J vaccine pause could keep away those already skeptical of COVID-19 vaccine

ATLANTA — It’s been less than a week since Deon Turner got his Johnson & Johnson vaccine shot. The Navy veteran figured the side effects he felt the next day were all he had to worry about.

“I had to sit back down very quick because I got very lightheaded,” Turner said. “My mom, she’s called and checked on me. My dad called me this morning.”

Now he’s closely monitoring symptoms in case he develops the rare but severe blood clots that caused a nationwide pause of the one-dose vaccine.

“Blood clots always concern me because I actually almost lost my wife to them recently,” Turner said.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for providers to stop using the J&J vaccine on Tuesday after six women developed blood clots in the brain and one of them died.

The women were between the ages of 18 and 48 and showed symptoms one to three weeks after vaccination.

Some 7.2 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson shot so far, including DeKalb County Board of Health Director Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford.

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“I had my J&J vaccine in mid-March, so I’m sort of out of that timeframe,” Ford said.

She told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson that these particular blood clots can’t be treated with typical blood thinners. Federal health officials said they may only need “a matter of days” to study the side effects.

“There are serious events. And so that’s why out of an abundance of caution, it makes sense to suspend administration of this particular vaccine, at least until more information is gathered,” Ford said.

In Georgia, 0.036% of people who have received a J&J vaccine have reported to the CDC about having mild side effects like a headache or dizziness.

For Moderna, 0.015% reported mild to moderate side effects.

For Pfizer, 0.018% reported mild to moderate side effects.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Georgians who died after being infected with COVID-19 is 2%.

“What we do know is, yes, that the vaccines are absolutely safer than getting infected,” said Dr. Mark Tompkins with the University of Georgia.

Still, in parts of the state like middle Georgia, health officials are worried about a new round of vaccine skepticism.

“I think the worst-case scenario is that this one vaccine and pausing the vaccination is going to increase vaccine hesitancy across all three of the currently available vaccines,” said Michael Hokanson with the North Central Health District.

As for Turner, he told Johnson he was a vaccine skeptic once, but now has faith he made the right choice.

“I say move forward with it once everybody’s confirmed that, you know, it is safe. Let’s go ahead and move forward with it. And I advise everyone to get vaccinated,” Turner said.