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Charlotte doctor, pharmacist weigh in on FDA adding warning to J&J COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The FDA announced a new warning for the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, saying the shot has been linked to a rare autoimmune disorder known as Guillain- Barré.

This is not the first bump in the road for the J&J shot here in the United States.

This comes several months after the FDA and CDC recommended vaccine providers resume using the shot after a temporary pause in April after a handful of rare blood clots were reported.

Greg Deese, the owner of Oakhurst Pharmacy in east Charlotte, says he will likely have to throw out more unused doses of the J&J shot following the announcement.

“I think overall the hesitancy will creep across the whole process and there will be even less people coming in just because people are afraid,” Deese said.

About 100 out of the 12.8 million people vaccinated with the J&J shot in the U.S. make up these cases.

That’s about one in 300,000 people.

Ninety-five out of the 100 cases required hospitalization and one case resulting in death.

“It causes ascending paralysis and weakness, so someone will start out with numbness in their toes, their ankles, and then it continues to travel up,” Dr. Megan Donnelly, a neurologist with Novant Health, said. “The issue is that if that weakness continues to travel up you can get paralysis of your legs and arms but also inability to breathe.”

The onset of the disorder happens within 42 days after vaccination, mainly among men ages 50 and older.

“Do I think there should be a hold on using J&J?” Donnelly said. “No, but I think using some level of caution is important and it’s why anytime there are new vaccines they’re monitored.”

Donnelly also says there is a risk of this syndrome with the flu shot.

“The risk of Guillain- Barré from actual flu itself, and actual covid itself, is much higher than the risk from the vaccine,” she said.

It’s a balancing act for vaccine providers.

“I don’t want to overstock, I don’t want to also miss a shot, miss a chance to get someone vaccinated,” Deese said.

Dr. Donnelly hopes transparency prevails.

“I hope it works to assuage some of the fears that things are being hidden from people, because they really aren’t,” she said.

In a statement, NCDHHS confirmed to WBTV that two cases have been reported in the state.

A spokesperson said:

“NCDHHS is aware of two cases reported through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) of Guillian-Barre syndrome after receipt of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The recent announcement from the FDA is an example of our safety system working and picking up even very rare risks. The good news is that we are not seeing increased risk with Pfizer or Moderna. With the more contagious Delta variant spreading in the state, the best way that people can protect themselves from COVID-19 related serious illness, hospitalization and death is to get vaccinated. Anyone 12 and older can get the Pfizer vaccine and there is ample supply across the state.”

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