PHD pausing Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine distribution

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) are recommending that vaccine providers pause the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine until more information is available from the CDC.

This recommendation was made after receiving information that the CDC and the FDA are reviewing data for six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

All of the Panhandle Health District (PHD) Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinics will be paused and distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to vaccine providers will pause as well until further guidance is provided. PHD does have available appointments for the Pfizer vaccine clinics that can be booked from their website.

“Vaccine safety is our number one priority, so out of an abundance of caution we are pausing any administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said Don Duffy, Health Services Administrator for PHD. “More needs to be known about these rare blood clots and how healthcare providers can effectively treat them before we consider resuming. Similar to how vaccine providers keep epi pens on hand due to the rare risk of anaphylaxis from the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine among people with certain medical conditions, we need to know how we can protect our patients from an adverse reaction.”

PHD has received 7,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine thus far and has distributed 4,425 doses to enrolled vaccine providers, including 250 doses to PHD clinics. All enrolled providers have been notified of the CDC and FDA’s guidance. The first mass vaccine clinic using Johnson & Johnson vaccine was scheduled for Thursday, April 22 in Kootenai County, and has since been put on pause.

Almost 7 million (6,820,188) doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been administered in the U.S. In Idaho, a total of 82,500 doses have been distributed, and as of 9:30 a.m. today, 30,673 doses had been administered. Of the six reports of this rare blood clot reaction in the United States, one person has died, and another is hospitalized in critical condition. All of the patients were women between 18 and 48 years of age. Symptoms occurred 6-13 days after vaccination. None have been reported in Idaho.

According to the CDC, treatment of this specific type of blood clot, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), is different from the treatment that might typically be administered. Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.

“This is why it is imperative that we know more in order to educate our health care community,” said Duffy.

Some flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, muscle pain, chills, or fever, immediately after getting a vaccine is normal. But people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their doctor immediately.

The CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. The FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases.

If you have questions about COVID-19 in our area, call PHD’s COVID-19 hotline between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1-877-415-5225.