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Washington state reauthorizes J&J COVID-19 vaccine

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Saturday the lifting on a pause of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Saturday that the state of Washington is reauthorizing the use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine.

The announcement came the day after federal health officials on Friday lifted the nationwide pause on the J&J vaccine after investigating 15 cases of blood clots out of 8 million people who received the J&J shot.

"This is a safe medicine that has been reviewed by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. We need every weapon to fight this pandemic," Inslee posted to Twitter.

The Washington State Department of Health said that those concerned about the J&J vaccine may instead choose one of the other two options, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

“Above all else, safety is our top priority. The pause was proof the surveillance systems in place to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines are working,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah, in a prepared statement. “These findings once again show we have three vaccines available that are effective and safe.”

Local leaders have not decided when or where they will start administering J&J vaccine doses.

“There are some people, for their own reasons because of their occupation or whatever that prefer Johnson & Johnson, so we're hoping to get more doses and integrate into our system,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Lakesha Knatt was at Lumen Field on Saturday getting the Pfizer shot. Knatt said she might have waited if Johnson & Johnson had been the only one available that day.

"I would not have wanted to get the Johnson and Johnson, to be honest with you. I felt like Moderna and Pfizer are my only two options,” Knatt said. 

Knatt researched the different vaccines after a loved one had side effects from the Johnson & Johnson shot.

She believes health officials need to do more damage control before expecting people to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“People are already afraid, it's been a scary year. The more transparency that we can get the better," Knatt said.

Federal scientific advisors on Friday said that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks.

Advisers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier Friday voted 10-4 to resume vaccinations but panelists made clear that the vaccinations must come with warnings about the risk.

According to a press release from Inslee's office, the Western States Workgroup, which includes of vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, has concluded that the J&J vaccine is "safe and effective, and paired with patient and provider educational materials about potential risks, provides an important option to continue to reduce severe COVID-19 illness."

The J&J shot was the third vaccine approved for emergency use in the U.S. in the fight to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control. The single-shot vaccine can also be stored at lower temperatures than other COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S.

The other two vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, continued to be available during the J&J 11-day pause.

In Washington, the J&J vaccine has been about 5% of the available shots so far.