Pharmacists Trish White and Katelyn Ylitalo oversee a vaccination clinic at the Sitka Firehall. Ylitalo says that there is Moderna vaccine available for those who don’t want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but about half of the people who have registered for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are going to “wait it out” until the national pause is over. (KCAW photo/Berett Wilber)

Local health officials in Sitka are complying with national recommendations to pause the administration of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and the US Food and Drug Administration issued the advice this morning (Tuesday 4-13-21), “out of an abundance of caution” after 6 cases of a very rare form of blood clot disorder were identified among the nearly 7-million Americans who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Note: The pharmacists at Harry Race suggest that anyone with concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine register online with the CDC’s “V-Safe After Vaccination Health Checker.” You can report any symptoms you might be experiencing to V-Safe, and if they’re serious, someone will reach out to you.

Owner Trish White says Harry Race Pharmacy has administered 85 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine locally in Sitka, and no one has experienced the blood clot complications described by the CDC. No one in Alaska — in fact — has experienced the complications. Nevertheless, she advises anyone who received the vaccine who experiences headache, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, or leg pain three weeks after receiving the vaccine to contact their healthcare provider. 

White says the delayed symptoms of the clotting disorder — officially called  cerebral venous sinus thrombosis  — should not be confused with the headache and other normal reactions people sometimes experience in the day or two after being vaccinated.

Harry Race vaccine coordinator Katelyn Ylitalo says that everyone who’s registered to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine locally has been notified of the pause, and been given the option to receive the Moderna vaccine instead. Ylitalo says about half the respondents are switching to Moderna, which requires two shots 28 days apart, and the other half are going to wait for a resumption of  Johnson & Johnson which requires only one dose. She says that following a national review of the data, the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be lifted as early as this Friday.