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One Virologist Says More Blood Clot Cases Likely To Surface As J&J Vaccine Is Investigated

syringes covid vaccine
Rogelio V. Solis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration have recommended pausing distribution of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines after at least six women in the U.S. experienced blood clots in the weeks after receiving the vaccine.

On today's program: A virologist and epidemiologist explains why a pause in administering Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines is reasonable as we learn more about the side effects; the Pennsylvania Department of Education will use a near-million dollar grant to research how the pandemic is affecting student outcomes; and how the Biden administration’s climate-friendly infrastructure plan could impact fossil-fuel workers, and what a worker transition would look like.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine side effects will be investigated
(0:00 — 6:47)

A pause continues in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after at least six women between 18 and 48 years old suffered blood clots within three weeks of inoculation. One woman has died.

About 7 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, meaning the confirmed cases of blood clots happened to fewer than one in a million people who received the vaccine. However, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine virologist and epidemiologist Dr. Patrick Moore says it’s important these rare side effects are investigated.

“The vaccines were allowed to be administered under Emergency Use Authorization, and as part of that authorization, everyone involved had to convince the American public that while we didn’t have all of the information that we needed, we had as much as we could get in order to release the vaccines,” says Moore.

Moore adds that vaccines go to healthy people, unlike other curative medicine, so it’s imperative the side effects of a vaccine aren’t putting more people in danger or at risk of health complications.

Moore says at the moment, the FDA and CDC are likely looking for more cases of blood clots, and gathering information about the existing cases of blood clots.

“It’s hard to see right now whether this [blood clots] is enough signal that rises above the noise that we should have concerns about it, but it’s appropriate to pause and then to restart again,” Moore says.

A grant to the state Department of Education will suggest ways to mitigate student impacts from the pandemic
(6:59 — 12:55)

The pandemic undoubtedly impacted the ability for K-12 students to learn over the past year, and there’s concern what this means for those kids, long term.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education will be using a nearly million dollar federal grant to study that impact, and make recommendations on how to support students in the years to come.

“So, [we’re] looking at implications for academic progression on social-emotional wellness, and on high school completion for those students for whom we can track them that far,”says Rosemary Hughes.

She’s a special adviser on school improvement with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and principal investigator on this study. “We’re also hoping to learn how the experiences over the last year may have impacted recruitment and retention strategies for educators.”

Hughes says the study will also look at outcomes by demographics, for example ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, English learners, students experiencing housing insecurity, and those in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems.

She says that some possible suggestions the study may make to support students are wider tutoring services, and incorporating more trauma-informed services into education.

“This project will help us kind of ground some of the assumptions that are contributing to our work right now,” says Hughes.

Union workers worry about how the Biden infrastructure plan will affect them
(13:05 — 18:00)

President Biden is selling the climate-friendly aspects of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan as a chance to create well-paying, union jobs. That involves convincing his party’s traditional allies--labor unions, that dealing with climate change will be good for workers.

For StateImpact Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier reports some of these workers fear being left behind.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Isabelle is a student at George Washington University studying Political Communication. She loves all things Pittsburgh sports and serves as a sports anchor for GW-TV. In her free time, she enjoys museum hopping and walking her dog, Stevie.
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