COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson vaccine and severe adverse effects

Q: Why are Idaho and the nation calling for a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

A: The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is recommending that Idaho vaccine providers not use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until more information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This recommendation was made after the department received information that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are reviewing data for six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot, combined with low platelet counts, in individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Vaccine safety is the nation’s and Idaho’s No. 1 priority. The CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in administering the vaccine until additional information is available for healthcare providers about evaluation and treatment of this rare adverse event among people who have been vaccinated. The Idaho Immunization Program has notified Idaho providers.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are focused on sharing accurate and timely information related to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines

The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) spends time every day making sure we share accurate and timely information in various ways including: our weekly media briefings, our website, social media, and answering questions directly from members of the public and the media.

The reality is that telling the truth saves lives. When Idahoans have access to accurate information, they can make informed decisions about their own health and the health of their families and communities. We continue to remain dedicated to keeping the people of Idaho safe through accurate information.

I would encourage you to use trusted sources for information when sharing COVID-related information. You can find the latest and most accurate information on COVID-19 at the following websites, as well as on the department’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter:

Data Dashboards

The DHW data teams have worked diligently every day to make sure Idahoans have the data they need to make informed decisions during the past year. We have made some changes to how often the data on the dashboards will be updated to allow them to have weekends off. The new update schedule for the data dashboards is as follows:

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COVID-19 Q&A: Breakthrough cases and variants

Q: Are we seeing cases of disease among Idahoans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19? How many of those people have been hospitalized? Have there been any deaths?

A: We have seen some “breakthrough cases,” which is the term being used to refer to people who have been fully vaccinated, but who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Breakthrough cases are expected since no vaccine offers 100 percent protection against illness. COVID-19 vaccines are the best protection we have against serious illness and death, in addition to the recommended guidelines. And the data bears that out. The good news, so far, is that people who develop COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated have experienced mostly mild to moderate illness.

Of the 105 cases reported as of today, only three have had to be hospitalized, and there have been no deaths. The three who were hospitalized had medical conditions that increased their risk for serious illness.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: I’m Encouraging all Idahoans to Choose to get the COVID-19 Vaccine

I want to encourage you to choose to get your COVID-19 vaccine. Starting Monday, April 5, all Idahoans 16 and older are eligible to get the vaccine through enrolled vaccine providers in Idaho.

You can sign up today at covidvaccine.idaho.gov, and a vaccine provider will call you to schedule your appointment. Thanks to Idaho’s pre-registration system, you don’t have make numerous calls or visit numerous locations to get your vaccine. We will do the work for you.

Choosing to get the COVID-19 vaccine will help keep you from getting COVID-19. It protects you from very serious illness and hospitalization if you do get infected. Choosing to get vaccinated protects the people around you, especially your family members and friends who are at increased risk of getting severe illness from COVID-19. And choosing to get vaccinated is the best shot we have to keep our kids in the classroom, protect jobs, and return to normal.

The COVID-19 vaccines have been carefully evaluated and are safe and effective. On April 1, 100 COVID-19 infections had been reported among fully vaccinated people in Idaho. These infections represent less than 0.5% of the Idahoans who are now fully vaccinated.

To date, more than 298,000 Idahoans (this includes those who work in Idaho) have been fully vaccinated. This number is those people who have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, you can visit our FAQ page which is updated regularly.

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Pandemic Aid: New law temporarily expands services for foster youth and alumni

A new federal law now provides temporary funding to help foster youth and alumni of foster care with financial help and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, and provides expanded services for foster youth and alumni of foster care who are 14-26 years old. Nationally, foster youth and alumni of foster care have been advocating for additional supports and services to help them through the pandemic. Our national leaders and government officials listened, and temporary services for foster youth and alumni of foster care were included in the CAA.

This is very exciting news!

Some of the services foster youth and alumni may be eligible for under the temporary guidelines include:

  • Independent Living services to assist with basic needs like cash assistance for food, access to technology for school, and other expenses
  • Room and Board assistance – Idaho has additional and expanded resources to help alumni of foster care get into (or keep) housing
  • Transportation funding to help youth and alumni of foster care get a driver’s license, pay for insurance, take driver’s education, and more
  • Transitional Foster Care so that youth don’t have to age out of foster care during the pandemic
  • Re-entry into foster care for young adults under age 22 who aged out between Oct. 1, 2019, and April 20, 2021
  • Higher education aid – The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) limit is temporarily raised to up to $12,000 annually per individual
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From Director Dave Jeppesen: Listening to the public during a pandemic; All Idahoans 16 and older eligible for the vaccine on April 5

Listening to the public during a pandemic – and providing answers that make a difference

The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) has a long history of providing services and reliable information to Idahoans. Even so, we knew from the early days of the pandemic that we couldn’t simply rely on decades of experience and our tried-and-tested communication practices with Idahoans and our partners. This is because we have all faced new challenges every day, that have affected each of us in different ways. We realized we had to listen in new ways.

So last April, we made the most of what 2020 had to offer, and we took to communicating with digital formats. We began a new listening initiative, where we made our subject matter experts available to the public to answer questions. One of these initiatives makes Facebook Live videos a weekly priority. We invite questions from the public, and each week one of our staff members goes live on Facebook with their answers. Our communications staff keep an eye on the comments in the video feeds as well, and stay engaged to make sure we understand whether we are getting it right – are we answering your questions? Are we providing the information you need that will help you to navigate through these uncertain times?

We have broadcast 43 Facebook Live events since April 2020, and we continue to listen to questions and share information in the videos. The topics we cover depend on what we are hearing from Idahoans: Is the vaccine safe? How does the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System work? What is my vaccine priority group? What will the pandemic do to our mental health, and what can we do to cope?

We consider the questions and identify the experts within our ranks who know the answers. Depending on the questions we hear, our featured experts may specialize in immunizations, epidemiology, behavioral health, public health recommendations such as what kinds of gatherings are higher or lower in risk, and more.

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A Reminder from Director Dave Jeppesen: Choosing to get the COVID-19 Vaccine Will Protect Your Friends, Family, and Community

As we catch a glimpse of normalcy returning to Idaho, we are feeling a sense of hope due to the arrival of three effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines. March Madness is back, friends and family are planning summer vacations, and Sunday dinners with vaccinated grandparents are (mostly) back on schedule.

But hope is fragile. It is based on our belief systems and our choices. It is based on the expectation of a positive ending. In this case, the end of the pandemic.

Hope, for me, is based on the choices thousands of Idahoans are making every day. Idahoans are choosing to get the vaccine. They are choosing to protect their friends, family, and community. They are choosing to keep schools open, support local businesses, and believe in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.  

I am encouraging all Idahoans to choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines have been tested by more than 70,000 Americans. Millions of Americans have now received the vaccine. It is safe and effective.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System

Join us at 10 a.m. Wednesday on Facebook Live when DHW Deputy Director Lori Wolff will discuss Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System, and then will take questions from viewers. https://www.facebook.com/IdahoHealthandWelfare

Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System allows Idahoans, and those who work in Idaho, who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to save their names to a statewide list that is available to vaccine providers who have open appointments and COVID-19 vaccine. People can add their names at any time, whether they are currently eligible or not, and a provider will contact them when it’s their turn and there is an open appointment.

The statewide schedule for vaccines has been updated to our website and opens vaccine according to the following schedule:

  • March 15: Age 55-64 with at least one medical condition*
  • March 22: Age 55-64 general population
  • March 29: Age 45-54 with at least one medical condition*
  • April 5: Age 45-54 general population
  • April 12: 16 – 44 with at least one medical condition*
  • April 26: Age 16 – 44 general population

Medical conditions are defined as “are at increased risk” and “might be at increased risk” per the CDC. Visit the CDC to see a full list of conditions that qualify as a medical condition. In addition, disabilities are also included as a medical condition. 

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Marking the milestone one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in Idaho

The one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Idaho is coming up on Saturday, March 13.

For many of us, it’s been the longest year of our lives. We’ve sacrificed gatherings with family and friends, hugs and in-person time with grandma and grandpa and other people at high-risk for serious illness, as well as travel and vacations. We have learned to work from home, or had our work dramatically reduced or stopped, and had our lives mostly upended by this insidious virus.

Many of us weren’t able to watch our kids at their sporting events and competitions. We’ve worn masks whenever we’re in public places where we can’t maintain at least 6 feet between us.

And too many of us have made the greatest involuntary sacrifice of all with the COVID-related death of a loved one.

I want to thank you all for the sacrifices you’ve made in the past year because of the pandemic. I know it has not been easy.

But I am encouraged by recent trends in COVID-19 data. Testing percent positivity is less than 5 percent and has been for the past couple of weeks. Case numbers have fallen and now seem to be leveling off. Hospitalizations have decreased. The number of Idahoans getting vaccinated increases each day.

Every day, we’re getting closer to getting back to normal.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Idaho received 13,300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine the week of March 1. We are not expecting additional shipments of the vaccine until late March, based on information from the manufacturer and the federal government. It was approved under Emergency Use Authorization on Feb. 27, 2021. On Feb. 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended use of the vaccine in people 18 years and older.

Adding Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine to our toolbox means more people can get vaccinated, which increases the overall population protected from severe disease, hospitalization, and even death.

Having different types of vaccines available for use, especially ones with different dosing recommendations and storage and handling requirements, can offer more options and flexibility for the public and vaccine providers.

Is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer and Moderna?

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose recombinant (combined genetic material) vector (vehicle) vaccine. Recombinant vaccines use one virus to carry a small piece of genetic material from another virus to trigger an immune response in the body. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a modified adenovirus to carry the gene for the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) spike protein genetic material. The virus can enter cells but can’t replicate inside them or cause illness. The body’s immune system detects the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and generates antibodies. 

It does not require ultra-cold storage, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do. Storage and handling of this vaccine is similar to many other vaccines. It must be stored at refrigerated temperatures between 36°- 46°F (2°-8°C). It is easy to transport and store and allows for expanded availability in most community settings and mobile sites, as supply scales up.

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