SAN ANTONIO – Federal health officials are calling for a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The announcement prompted Bexar County hospitals and clinics planning to use the company’s vaccine to develop a new game plan.
“It’s unfortunate that six people had complications from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. We prayed for them and for their families, but we are fortunate that we are able to get the Moderna vaccine to do the clinic tomorrow,” said Raymond Bryant, presiding elder of the San Antonio District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Church leaders on the East Side are thankful they did not have to cancel their COVID-19 vaccine pop-up clinic scheduled for Wednesday at the Beasley Brown Community Center at Bethel AME Church on Swiss Street.
The clinic was supposed to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but that plan changed on Tuesday.
“We’ve still got a virus we have to fight,” said Pastor Patrick Jones, with Greater Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.
Raymond Carvajal, the owner of Carvajal Pharmacy, teamed up with the churches to help distribute the vaccines and said they had Moderna vaccines ready to go.
“We have it in stock. Our partners, the University Health System, WellMed and UT Health, have ample supplies. We have supplies for these clinics,” Carvajal said.
The churches have hosted two other pop-up clinics where J&J vaccines were administered.
“We’re thankful that we have had no incidents with any of the vaccines that we’ve done,” Bryant said.
“What we need to do is stay calm and identify only those people who have had this particular vaccine inside of the last three weeks, alert them to potential problems that they need to be aware of so that they can get treatment, heed off problems before they become serious. And then, for everybody else, we do need to continue on our trajectory. The best way to prevent a COVID death is to prevent a COVID infection,” said Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist at UT Health San Antonio’s Long School of Medicine.
Berggren said if you received the J&J vaccine, the symptoms to look out for include easy bruising, gum bleeding, nose bleeds, swelling in your arms and legs or tiny blood spots under the skin in areas away from the injection site. She said if you have any of those symptoms, you should see a doctor.
“Shortness of breath, chest pain, persistent severe abdominal pain, persistent headache or blurred vision may be a sign of a more serious vaccine reaction. Should you have any of these symptoms, go to the closest emergency department,” Berggren said.
Berggren said UT Health San Antonio has administered 261 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. She said they’ll hold off on giving any more until they are notified otherwise by the federal government.
“I am absolutely in support of the pause that has been imposed right now because we need to not get ahead of ourselves and really understand this better,” Berggren said.