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‘It’s like a giant punch in the gut.’ Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause frustrating for residents

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

The sudden halt in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine created frustration, a new layer of COVID-19 health concerns, confusion, and uncertainty for many in Massachusetts Tuesday.

Jonathan Kriner, a tech industry professional, said his wife got the J&J vaccine Monday and he was supposed to get his at 6 p.m. Tuesday, part of the family’s plan to protect themselves and their 11-week-old son, Asher.

“I feel like somebody’s got to know information I don’t. It feels like a pretty extreme reaction for a blanket pullback,” said Kriner, whose J&J vaccination was canceled without a new appointment date being given.

Kriner is a native of Cincinnati and longtime fan of the Reds, the city’s Major League Baseball team, and he saw a parallel in his team’s fortunes and his long wait to get vaccinated.

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“It feels like watching the Reds in recent playoff seasons, you get really, really excited ... and they lose in the first round ... It feels like a giant punch in the gut.”

Outside Hynes Convention Center in Boston Tuesday, many of those with appointments to receive first or second doses of Pfizer, expressed confidence in the shots.

Rachel Morrissey said she was a “firm believer in vaccines” and the small chance of severe side effects from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine wouldn’t deter her from receiving the shot.

“There’s risk with anything,” she said.

But Wanda Hernandez expressed concern about the Johnson & Johnson shot. Hernandez, who was early for her appointment to receive a second Pfizer dose, said she’s “glad I’m getting this one.”

Hernandez said she would cancel if she was scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson. “I would wait until I know for sure,” she said. “I think they rushed the Johnson & Johnson.”

Mitch Agee, citing the lower efficacy rate of the J&J vaccine compared to that of Pfizer and Moderna, said he was “always kind of shaky on J&J.”

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The news of the shot being put on pause didn’t “entirely surprise” Agee, who said he would probably ask for another vaccine if he were scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson.

But such hesitancy is not shared by Larry Wolpe, the principal of Potter Road Elementary School in Framingham, who got the J&J vaccine at CVS in Wayland on March 6. He experienced fatigue for several days after, but otherwise didn’t have any other problems.

“My arm didn’t hurt,” he said in a telephone interview. “I had minor chills overnight, but nothing substantial.”

Wolpe said the news about the J&J vaccine was “a little disheartening to hear, but I’m certainly willing to take my chances,” given the fact that more than 6.8 million people United States have received the shot, and only six cases of the rare blood clotting disorder have come up.

“I’m still happy I received it,” he said. “I went with what we knew at the time. I still feel confident that I did the right thing … and I hope nothing else comes out to change my mind.”

Pete Wilson, 44, of Kingston, received his J&J shot on Sunday at Shaw’s supermarket in Hanson.

“The only thing I can really say is my arm hurts. My arm hurts more today than yesterday. It feels stiffer,” Wilson said in a telephone interview. “And Sunday afternoon I felt pretty tired.”

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But besides that, Wilson said he hasn’t experienced any other side effects.

“I’m glad I got it,” he said. “With the availability of shots, I was just happy to have an appointment.”

Wilson said his wife was scheduled to get the J&J vaccine next week in Dartmouth and when she called about her appointment they rescheduled her to receive the Pfizer shot this Thursday.

For 600 Methuen residents, they will now have to wait — possibly for weeks — to get appointments after the city canceled all Johnson & Johnson vaccinations set for Tuesday.

Mayor Neil Perry said he does not currently receive enough doses of the two-shot Moderna vaccine to fill in that gap. Some 30 percent of the city’s residents have been vaccinated, but said he fears the Johnson & Johnson news will dangerously slow down the effort to reach the goal of 100 percent vaccinated.

Perry has attended the clinic run by the city during its operation and noticed a few people had to get transported to a hospital for an evaluation after being vaccinated. But that number is very small, he said.

“This is A, going to slow the process down, and B, create some trust issues,” he said. “My greatest concern is I don’t want people losing their trust in vaccination. I don’t want people to be backing off.”

Charlie McKenna can be reached at charlie.mckenna@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @charliemckenna9.



John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him @JREbosglobe. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.