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Local vaccination efforts pivot after pause on Johnson and Johnson vaccine

Madison Ruffo
The state-run vaccination site at the New York State Fairgrounds had more than 900 appointments scheduled for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday. Those vaccines were swapped for the Pfizer vaccine

Vaccination clinics across central and northern New York had to make a lot of adjustments in a short time Tuesday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced that they’d be putting the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on pause after six reports of a rare blot clotting disorder traced to the vaccine.

On Monday, New York state announced that it would be distributing 21,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to the State University of New York. But less than 24 hours after SUNY was promised those doses, they had to pause the vaccine that was supposed to propel them into a fully in-person fall semester.

“What we're finding with COVID is it always throws you a couple of curveballs, the COVID curveball thing's real,” said SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras. “We've had variants, we've had spikes. This is just another one of those curveballs that we have to deal with.”

In response to the pause, Malatras released a statement saying that the network of colleges would be making alternative arrangements to continue vaccinating its students.

“Many of our students who had a vaccine appointment today are still keeping their appointment with it,” he said. “We're switching it out with Pfizer.”

SUNY schools aren’t the only places pivoting around this hiccup in vaccine distribution. Onondaga County clinics are also swapping out the Johnson and Johnson for other vaccines. County Executive Ryan McMahon said he’s optimistic that this pause will be short-lived.

“We don't think this is long-term,” said McMahon. “From what we're hearing, it looks like this probably will be a shorter pause than a long-term pause.”

At the State Fairgrounds, which is the second-largest state-run vaccination site in New York, they were also able to make the switch to Pfizer for the 965 Johnson and Johnson appointments they had scheduled for Tuesday.

State Fair Director Troy Waffner said he’s coordinating with people who traveled fairly far to get the one-and-done Johnson and Johnson vaccine in Syracuse to give them their second shot of Pfizer a little closer to home.

“A lot of people actually drove up from New York City to get the Johnson and Johnson shot–they do that every day,” he said. “We're working with them if they get their Pfizer shot here to get their second dose in New York City if they can. That way, they don't have to make another six-hour trip.”

Not all places could pivot as these could. SUNY Oswego canceled its Johnson and Johnson vaccine clinic that was scheduled for Tuesday about 30 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. A spokesperson said they were working with SUNY to get other vaccines for students and staff.

At Syracuse University, which has partnered with the county to receive Johnson and Johnson doses, they suspended vaccine distribution on their campus until further notice.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.