The Johnson & Johnson Pause Slows College Vaccinations

Schools are looking for alternatives to the one-shot vaccine before the end of the semester.,


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As summer break looms, colleges are racing to inoculate students before they leave campus. Many schools and states had banked on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — the only one-shot Covid-19 inoculation approved for use in the U.S. — to achieve that goal.

But on Tuesday, all 50 states, as well as CVS and Walgreens, halted use of the vaccine after six women between 18 and 48 developed blood clots within about two weeks after their shots. One died, and another is in critical condition.

Nearly seven million U.S. residents have already received the vaccine, including about one million women in that age range.

Until this week, the appeal of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was simplicity: It could be stored in a normal refrigerator and required only one dose, which made it particularly attractive to colleges and universities. But the disruption will not only affect college-aged students.

“If we really want to have the normal summer that we all are desperate for, getting college students vaccinated over the next month to six weeks will actually make an enormous difference,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “Their immunity matters a lot for our society.”

That’s because college students are, Dr. Jha said, “very efficient spreaders of the virus.”

On Tuesday, many health clinics that serve students paused vaccination efforts that depended on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In states like Ohio, which had made the vaccine a cornerstone of its strategy to inoculate college campuses, schools are searching for alternatives. In New York, St. John Fisher College had planned to host an on-campus clinic on Tuesday to give out 500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson shot to about a fifth of its undergraduate student body, the school’s president said. The school is now searching for alternative vaccines.

“It would have allowed us to fully vaccinate them,” said Gerard Rooney, the president. “It’s not impossible with the Moderna and the Pfizer, if we are able to gain access to those vaccines sooner than later. But once the semester breaks, people will distribute.”

Ohio University announced a shift to Pfizer’s vaccine at local health clinics that serve students. Michigan State and the University of Michigan did, too. The State University of New York system, the largest public university system in the U.S., is working to change strategies for its campuses.

Dr. Jha is not overly worried. He thinks the U.S. will soon resume the Johnson & Johnson shots. And even if students get only their first dose on or near campus, they can always sign up for a second dose closer to home.

But for convenience-minded college students, “one and done” was attractive. Last week, Ted Fernandez, a 23-year-old student in Florida, took an Uber to a vaccine clinic at Miami Dade College North Campus.

“I got the Johnson & Johnson just knowing, with work and school, the chances I came back for the second one were not very good,” Fernandez said.

ImageStudies continue to show that many young children have struggled to master fundamental reading and math skills.
Studies continue to show that many young children have struggled to master fundamental reading and math skills.Credit…Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Can we actually measure how much academic ground students have lost during the pandemic? Should we even try?

To many education experts, the answer is an emphatic yes. Only with this information, they say, will states and districts feel the necessary urgency to address gaps, by spending resources on interventions like tutoring.

But for some teachers and administrators, the answer is more complicated. Some oppose efforts to have students sit for standardized tests this spring, saying that testing students who have just returned to school is punitive, even traumatic.

Others reject discussions of “learning loss,” the term researchers have used to describe how remote learning has slowed many students’ academic progress. They say that focusing on what students have lost — as opposed to the ways that they have adapted and been resilient — risks stigmatizing them, and dismissing the hard work of teachers during a uniquely challenging year.

There also may be negative consequences for schools that see a decline in their scores this year — starting with upset parents who have had their own struggles during the pandemic.

Our colleague Dana Goldstein explored this debate in a piece this week. As she made clear, the question of how much students have lost as a result of remote learning is inextricably tied to debates over whether extended school closures were justified.

Jesse Hagopian, a Seattle high school teacher and writer, told Dana that learning-loss research was being used to “prop up the multibillion-dollar industry of standardized testing” and “rush educators back into classrooms before it’s safe to do so.”

Experts who believe it’s important to measure learning loss want to create pressure on policymakers and schools to allocate resources to help students catch up. But to some teachers and school leaders, that strategy feels like an indictment of their efforts and an insult to their students.

  • New York City will open and revamp its summer school program for all learners.

  • In a shooting at a Tennessee high school — the first since the pandemic began — the police killed an armed student. No one else died; one officer was wounded.

  • In Chicago, high school teachers and staff members stayed home on Wednesday in protest of the city’s reopening plan.

  • Regis High School, a prominent Catholic school in Manhattan, said it would dismiss the Jesuit priest who serves as its president after an investigation found he had engaged in sexual misconduct involving several adults, including school employees.

  • After a beloved fourth-grade teacher from Orange County, Calif., was caught on video marching toward the Capitol on Jan. 6, her community split over whether she should be fired.

  • A good read from The Times: While many students and parents have struggled with remote learning, some have actually liked it. Now, districts are setting up permanent online schools to accommodate them.

  • A good listen from The Times: In the third episode of “Odessa,” an audio series about the reopening of a West Texas school district, a quarantine of dozens of band members angers parents and severs friendships.

Kids can pick up on Big Adult Things, even if they don’t have the language for them yet. Stephanie Murray wrote candidly about the pain of trying to explain her depression to her 3-year-old daughter.

“Mom?” her daughter asked, “How come you’re sad all day, Mom? How come you’re sad all the time?”

Murray got advice from experts. In brief: Don’t be ashamed. Try to not be secretive. Don’t turn your child into a care giver. Above all, shoot for what one expert called “age-appropriate honesty.”

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