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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

CDC Finds No Safety Issues After Wake County, UNC Health Pause J&J Vaccine Following Adverse Effects

Boxes stand next to vials of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the pharmacy of National Jewish Hospital for distribution early Saturday, March 6, 2021, in east Denver.
Boxes stand next to vials of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the pharmacy of National Jewish Hospital for distribution early Saturday, March 6, 2021, in east Denver.

Both Wake County and UNC Health paused administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Thursday after several people suffered adverse reactions.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement issued late Thursday, however, that it worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wake County Public Health Department to investigate the reactions and "did not find any safety issues or reason for concern; and the CDC recommends continuing to administer the vaccine."

The Wake clinic at PNC Arena in Raleigh had vaccinated more than 2,300 people with the vaccine Thursday. Fourteen had minor reactions and were treated onsite according to a county news release; four others were taken to area hospitals for treatment but were expected to be released.

After the pause was enacted at PNC, remaining patients with appointments were offered the Pfizer vaccine or allowed to reschedule.

A UNC Health spokesperson said that "a handful" of patients at their Friday Center vaccination clinic in Chapel Hill reported feeling faint after getting the vaccine. All were treated on-site and released. UNC Health paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine there and at its other clinics around the state, including clinics in Hillsborough and Chapel Hill.

Officials from both health care systems said they were acting out of an abundance of caution and would consult with the CDC and the state health department before resuming use of the vaccine.

Wake County said in its news release that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would analyze the vaccine lot and issue guidance.

The reactions occurred in the brief mandatory observation period each patient undergoes after vaccination. Patients who got vaccinated at the clinics and didn’t immediately have a reaction aren’t believed to be at risk of problems.

More than 4.5 million people have received the J&J vaccine nationwide, and the news release said the adverse reactions are consistent with known common side effects from receiving the vaccine.

A clinic in Denver using the vaccine also stopped operation after 11 people there had adverse reactions.

NCDHHS said in a release that the CDC is aware of reactions in Iowa, Colorado, Georgia and now North Carolina that include dizziness, light-headedness, feeling faint and rapid breathing.

The health organizations reiterated that temporary reactions after the COVID-19 vaccine are expected and include a sore arm, headache or feeling tired and achy, and in some cases, a fever.

"In most cases, these temporary reactions are normal and are good signs that the body is building protection," the NCDHHS statement said.

Atrium Health is scheduled to administer Johnson & Johnson vaccinations at Charlotte’s Bank of America stadium Friday and Sunday.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit WUNC.org.