RALEIGH, NC (AP) – Health officials in North Carolina said on Thursday they had stopped giving doses of Johnson & Johnson at a mass vaccination site in Raleigh and clinics in Hillsborough and Chapel Hill after at least 26 people experienced side effects, including fainting.
Four people have been taken to hospitals for further examination, and state and federal health officials are examining the matter.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that reactions such as fainting are not uncommon after a person is vaccinated, although it is looking at reports of side effects in North Carolina and in three other states. All those taken to hospitals are expected to recover, local health officials said.
“Currently, we are working with the NC DHHS (the State Department of Health and Human Services) and CDC to further assess the situation to ensure that everyone is confident in the continued safety of our vaccination operations, ”said a statement from Kim McDonald, medical director at Wake County Human Services.
Wake County announced Thursday evening that it had stopped giving doses of Johnson & Johnson at PNC Arena after 18 of more than 2,300 people vaccinated had side effects, including four who were taken to hospitals and should be released.
The decision to stop the J&J vaccines at PNC Arena was made with less than a two hour appointment to administer. People at the site then received Pfizer vaccines or were allowed to reschedule their existing J&J appointments.
Two clinics in Hillsborough and Chapel Hill have also chosen to stop offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and are rescheduling 350 appointments for people who were scheduled to receive their single-dose J&J injection on Friday.
In Colorado on Wednesday, 11 people saw adverse reactions after receiving a J&J vaccine. Two of these people were taken to hospital.
CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said she was aware of the adverse reactions in some people who received the vaccines in Iowa, Colorado, Georgia and North Carolina. These reactions include dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling faint, and rapid breathing.
She said the CDC was working with state and local authorities to assess the issues and had performed batch analyzes of the vaccine and found no cause for concern. The CDC is not telling health services to stop vaccinations.
“COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective,” she said. “Many people have no side effects after COVID-19 vaccines, but some people will have pain or swelling at the injection site or a fever, chills or headache. These usually don’t last long and are signs that your body is strengthening its protection. “
David Wohl, an infectious disease expert at UNC Health who oversees UNC vaccination sites, said that between eight and 14 of the approximately 1,250 vaccinated J&J injected on Thursday passed out after receiving the vaccine, although no one was taken to hospital.
Due to when the side effects started to occur, Wohl said UNC Health had completed all vaccines for people who had appointments at the two sites on Thursday.
Although his department is still working to analyze the source of the problem, he doesn’t think most cases are from allergic reactions to the vaccine.
“I’m just worried that if we have as many people passing out as we do, we have to figure out why,” Wohl said. “Everyone I’ve seen really doesn’t have an underlying medical history that is cause for concern, but many of them report having passed out before.”
Johnson & Johnson, the makers of the vaccine, said in a statement that “there is no higher priority than the safety and well-being of the people we serve. When we receive reports of adverse events in people receiving our medicines and vaccines, we collect the necessary information and carefully assess the events. “
Associated Press writer Mike Stobbe in New York contributed to this report.
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Anderson is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on secret issues.