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Health officials fear Johnson & Johnson concerns could bolster vaccine hesitancy

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BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Department of Health is hitting the breaks on Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine.

Health care providers fear the pause may increase vaccine hesitancy in the community.

"Anytime there is negative news of this magnitude, no matter how big or how small, it is going to have an impact on it. It's going to add more headwind to the effort," Vishal Visanji said.

Visanji is the CEO of Relief Health in Baton Rouge, and he says he applauds officials for putting a pause on the shot. Visanji says it's a sign they're taking safety seriously, but he believes confidence in the vaccine may be further damaged.

"It just means that providers like us have to be more vigilant in our advocacy efforts to go out and get vaccinated," Visanji said.

It's another hurdle in the fight against the pandemic that health care providers, like CareSouth Medical and Dental, say they have to work even harder to overcome. Much of the hesitancy they say they've seen stems from the younger population.

"We haven't seen the overwhelming response that we saw from the older people. I think we still have to continue to educate people about the vaccine and the safety of the vaccine," said Michelle McCalope, marketing/communications director.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one of three approved for emergency use in the U.S.. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a different mechanism than J & J and have been administered to more than 100 million people without any known safety issues.

Health care workers are now urging people not to panic.

"There's a lot of effort, manpower, and science that went behind the vaccines. As you can see, they were quick to pull stuff off at the first signs it could have some negative impacts," Visanji said.

Health care workers say it's important to note that the cases of blood clots appear to be extremely rare.


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