TRI-CITIES (WJHL) – Health experts across Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee gave the go-ahead for weekend mass vaccination events distributing the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after sites in four states paused distribution, citing “adverse reactions.”

The one-dose coronavirus vaccine has been paused in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina, after severe “adverse reactions” were reported.

Health experts across the Tri-Cities Region told News Channel 11 that reactions are to be expected from any vaccine, and from local experience, they do not think it necessary to discontinue the J&J vaccine.

“We know with these new vaccines, people will have reservations but J&J has come through the trials and been deemed to be safe and effective. We’ve had experience with it locally as well, and we give it just like we give the Pfizer or Moderna in a very safe environment with all the protections and precautions in place so I think the people who are excited about a one-dose vaccine, it’s a great option for them, and we do encourage people to get it and like I said we have all the precautionary things in place for once they get it, to make sure that they do well,” Dr. Karen Shelton of the Virginia Department of Health said Friday.

The LENOWISO Health District is set to have a mass vaccination event Saturday, where the J&J vaccine is to be distributed.

Shelton said she is very excited to be having a mass vaccination event in Scott County. She said 500 doses will be distributed to people who have already been placed on the waiting list, but if availability grows, she said it would be reflected on the health department’s website.

“We’ve had a lot of experience with J&J vaccine. At all events, we do take vaccine seriously, whether it’s the Moderna, the Pfizer or the J&J, we do a medical screening of people when they come in and if they’ve had this your history of serious reactions we talk with them about those reactions, and whether or not this vaccine may be appropriate for them, we do talk about allergies and any components in the vaccine. We do ask them medical screening questions as well, and everyone that gets the vaccine is observed for at least 15 minutes afterwards. Those who have had a history of serious allergic reactions will be observed for 30 minutes afterwards, just to make sure that they have tolerated and not had an immediate allergic reaction to the vaccine,” she explained.

Shelton said they generally have EMS on-site or readily available for all of VDH vaccination events, as well as staff who are trained in first response, and appropriate medications to give someone if they have had an allergic reaction.

“So, we do monitor all these events very carefully. There are what we call our more serious or immediate allergic reactions or anaphylactic reactions which we’re prepared for, but the most common things we see are the people who just kind of get what we would call a vagal reaction or a vasovagal reaction from the vaccine they feel a little woozy afterward they get a little lightheaded and faint, and people will have that from any different vaccine that they may have or other experiences. Some people get it just when they get their blood drawn. So, some people go through things that you know they have experiences where they just turn white as a sheet and drop, you know,” she said.

She said the most important thing for VDH is to provide a “COVID safe environment” for these vaccine events.

Similarly, health officials in Tennessee advocate for the efficacy of the J&J vaccine. The Tennessee Department of Health provided a statement on the topic:

We remain confident in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and its ability to combat COVID-19.  While we are aware of rare reports of individuals experiencing symptoms such as dizziness or nausea immediately after receiving the vaccine, this is more likely due to getting a shot than due to the vaccine itself.  If you will recall Metro Davidson County recently hosted a large vaccine event administering more than 10,000 Johnson and Johnson vaccine with no adverse reactions reported. 

Bill Christian, Associate Director of the Office of Communication & Media Relations for TDH

East Tennessee State University is set to have a mass vaccination clinic Saturday where the J&J vaccine will be administered, and the Sullivan County Regional Health Department announced mass vaccine events with the J&J vaccine next week.

Follow News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais on Facebook and Twitter for updates.