CINCINNATI — University of Cincinnati students like Zach McQuade were thrown a curveball earlier this week when Gov. Mike DeWine's administration recommended pausing the use of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine while it investigates reported but rare reports of complications.
He'd planned to get the one-and-done vaccine on UC's campus before leaving for summer break in a few weeks, but news that distribution has hit a roadblock means student vaccination efforts will need to use the two-dose Pfizer vaccine instead.
That means some students who will have already received their first dose before classes end will either need to drive back for their second shot or make other arrangements at home.
"I'm just going to get it on my own when I get home," the first-year student told WCPO. "End of school being April 27th, I don't know if they're going to be able to get everyone vaccinated by then because a lot of people don't even want to do it anyway."
Graduate assistant Molly Monak was one of the roughly 2,300 people who already received their Johnson & Johnson vaccine before news broke earlier this week that six women had experienced severe and in some cases fatal blood clotting after receiving the shot.
"I wanted to get it, and that was the first opportunity that I had," she said. "It was kind of hard to see, but I also was optimistic about that it's not everyone. It's very rare and few cases. So I'm still encouraging people to get the shot, but it is ultimately your decision if you feel unsafe to not do that."
Monak also said the Johnson & Johnson disruption is bad news for efforts to get as many students vaccinated as they can before the summer break.
"That's hard. You're going to ask these students to come back," she said. "I don't know if they're going to be able to go somewhere else if they're even gonna want to do it now. So I think it's hard to go from the one shot and switch to two."
Given the required time between the two Pfizer doses, UC can give second doses no sooner than May 5, eight days after summer break begins.
The Johnson & Johnson pause rang alarm bells for some of the university's student-athletes, including football players Chris Scott and Justin Harris.
"I'm not really interested in really getting it right now because I don't like the long-term and short-term effects of it right now," Harris said. "That's a big question probably on campus of what vaccine; is one shot better than the two shots, or if the two shots are better than one?"
Scott agreed and added that he needs more time to consider.
"I just received information today about the switch and how they were trying to do that and stuff like that. So I haven't had a chance to really sit down and try to process all of it," he said.
"We don't know if, further down the line, we're going to be obligated to take the vaccine to play or to get on the planes or so forth," Harris said.
UC officials said Thursday they do not anticipate the Johnson & Johnson pause to compromise plans to return to campus next fall under more familiar conditions. They also indicated that the university is asking students who can drive back for their second dose to do so, but administrators will assist those who cannot in making other arrangements for their second doses closer to home.