Chicago, Cook County, Illinois Health Officials Restart Administering J&J Vaccine

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

The Illinois Department of Public Health, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Cook County Department of Public Health restarted administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Saturday, as officials said it is safe and effective.

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State and local health officials stopped administering the one-shot vaccine “out of an abundance of caution” for 11 days while federal officials examined data involving 15 cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals, most of whom were women younger than 50.

Dr. Rachel Rubin, senior medical officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, told reporters Saturday morning that she was pleased federal officials had cleared the vaccine for use after adding an additional warning about the possibility of blood clots and treatment recommendations.

“It is important to have choices and to have as much vaccine as possible,” Rubin said. “You are much more at risk of getting a blood clot if you contract COVID-19 than from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

Dr. Kiran Joshi, the co-lead for the Cook County Department of Public Health, said data show the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is “not only effective but safe.” With more than 8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered, the chance of experiencing a severe reaction from a blot clot is two in 1 million, Joshi said.

Despite the delay in getting the life-saving vaccine to those in need, Rubin and Joshi said the pause was definitely worth it and should serve to increase confidence in the safety and efficacy of all COVID-19 vaccines, rather than making people more hesitant to get inoculated.

“We believe there is quite a bit of pent-up demand for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Joshi said.

As Cook County restarts efforts to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, officials said Saturday they were no longer considering ordering additional restrictions as a “very sharp” increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that alarmed officials appears to have slowed.

“We are hopeful that the increase has peaked or plateaued,” Joshi said.

All Cook County mass vaccination sites will open for walk-in appointments between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. starting Monday, officials said.

All city of Chicago mass vaccination sites opened to walk-in appointments on Friday.

That is possible because of a softening of demand for the COVID-19 and increased supplies, Rubin said.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Health said the state had about 470,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when the pause was lifted Friday evening by federal officials.

Officials with the Chicago Department of Public Health called the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “an important tool in the City’s vaccination strategy” in a statement after federal officials acted Friday evening.

When federal officials recommended local health officials stop administering the one-shot vaccine, the city had approximately 13,000 doses on hand, officials said.

City health officials began offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the vaccination site at Kennedy King College on Saturday.

Chicago officials will resume using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to inoculate homebound Chicagoans, and the Chicago Federation of Labor mass vaccination site will once again offer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, along with the city’s vaccination bus program, officials said.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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