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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Joint Vaccine Task Force recently paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The interruption was due to reports of blood clots and low platelets in six Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients in the United States. The exact cause of the condition and whether it is related to the vaccine is unknown.

Almost 7 million people have received the one-dose vaccine in the United States so far.

Chaffee County Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom said, “CCPH and all county COVID-19 providers will follow the state’s requirement that we pause vaccination plans for distributing J&J until further notice.

“We have sent out a health advisory notification to all vaccine and healthcare providers so that they are aware of the situation and what to expect. We anticipate an update to the situation from CDC and CDPHE in the next few days.”

The decision had been made recently to phase out the use of the Moderna vaccine due to its large-volume packaging which makes smaller vaccine events difficult to plan, and concentrate on the use of the Pfizer two-dose and Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccines.

For the time being, the pause of the one-dose option means public health will use up its store of Moderna and continue to use Pfizer until such time as Johnson & Johnson comes back on line.

Other vaccine providers such as local pharmacies have been offering the Johnson & Johnson option. For the time being public health will work with smaller providers that don’t have ultra cold storage to ensure that they have the storage that they need if it is still required at that time, Carlstrom said.

Those who have already received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are advised by health authorities at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to contact their health provider if they develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination.

Decline in vaccinations

In recent weeks Chaffee County Public Health has seen a local decline in interest for receiving vaccines.

A recent first dose Pfizer event held at Chaffee County Fairgrounds Tuesday had 400 slots available, however only 150 doses were administered, 145 first doses and 5 second doses.

The trend concerns Carlstrom.

Among the reasons she said she has heard from those not being vaccinated, some are against vaccinations in general.

Some want to wait the pandemic out and see if others can help reach herd immunity without needing their vaccination.

Others believe that the pandemic is a hoax.

Some are concerned about side effects or think that a past or current allergy could exacerbate an adverse reaction.

Others say that they want the highest risk population to get vaccinated first.

Some younger people have said that they are not concerned with getting sick, so they will hold out.

As of Thursday Chaffee County sits at 43 percent of the total population being fully vaccinated according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data.

Herd immunity and variants

Carlstrom said the development of herd immunity will come down to who is immune due to infection and who is immunized.

She said she has heard a figure of from 75-85 percent of the population would have to be immunized in order to achieve it.

“We are at a phase, what is referred to as the Fourth Wave, in our pandemic response that continues to be a tightrope walk,” Carlstrom said. “Vaccinations are the answer for us getting back to a new sense of normal.”

Carlstrom urged those “on the fence” to consider getting fully vaccinated.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic several variants of the virus have developed and spread.

The first incidence of the South African variant was first found in Colorado in March in Chaffee County. Others have been detected in the state since then.

Vaccinations lessen the chance that a new variant, possibly more transmissible and virulent, will develop.

“We are in a race between vaccinations and the variant,” Carlstrom said.

Moving ahead

The next phase in vaccinations in the county include to building up the county’s health incident trailer which can travel throughout the county, providing vaccinations to those that couldn’t make it to a clinic, adding specific days and times to the county’s immunization program at public offices, and going to employers, events and places where it might be easier to access the vaccine.

“We have ample opportunities to get the vaccine in our county, from pharmacies, to (Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center), to Valley Wide Health Clinic, etc. There is no reason why someone 16 or older should not get vaccinated, beyond the advice of a medical professional,” Carlstrom said.

Moving forward, people seeking a first-dose vaccination appointment can contact Chaffee County Public Health at 719-539-4510 or health@chaffeecounty.org to schedule an appointment.

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