NJ, Pennsylvania vaccination sites halt use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

All New Jersey and Pennsylvania vaccination sites are halting the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine amid concerns for blood clotting. 

Early Tuesday, the CDC and FDA said in a joint statement that the pause of the single-dose vaccine is "out of an abundance of caution" while the agencies investigate the cases of reportedly rare blood clotting issues. 

In New Jersey, all appointments for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been either canceled or put on hold. 

For individuals scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine, the New Jersey Department of Health will work with all vaccination sites to make arrangements for the administration of an alternative two-dose vaccine.

In Pennsylvania, vaccine recipients will continue to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and will not have to worry about rescheduling.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health told all COVID-19 vaccine providers in the state to stop administering the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine until at least April 20 "out of an abundance of caution."

According to federal data, Pennsylvania has received 778,000 doses of the J&J vaccine and administered more than 257,000.

The Wolf administration had reserved its initial allotment of the J&J vaccine for educators. The vast majority of Pennsylvania residents who have been vaccinated received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, which are unaffected by the pause.

In the Philadelphia suburbs, Montgomery and Delaware counties said ahead of the state's announcement that they would temporarily stop using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Delaware had been using some of its allotment to reach homebound and homeless people and said it will switch to using the Moderna vaccine for those programs. A large-scale vaccination site at Delaware County Community College that had been using the J&J vaccine will be relocated and will administer either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, a spokesperson said.

Montgomery County also suspended J&J vaccination clinics. A spokesperson said county officials got a brief message from the state Department of Health at 8 a.m. Tuesday that said, "Please pause vaccine administration of this product until you hear from us. Our medical team is reviewing."

Separately, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said vaccine clinics in the city will stop using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine "until we receive further guidance." Some city clinics were forced to close Tuesday, while others were to be switched to other approved COVID-19 vaccines. Philadelphia gets its allotment directly from the federal government.

A mass vaccination site run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency switched to Pfizer and does not plan to cancel appointments for now, though the city hadn’t yet released details for how those residents will get second doses.

"While this announcement is challenging, it highlights the vaccine evaluation process," Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. "The CDC and the FDA are closely monitoring vaccines for safety and effectiveness, and if there is a cause for concern, they will take action because safety is paramount. This protocol should give all Pennsylvanians confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, and individuals should proceed with getting vaccinated as soon as possible to fight the virus, particularly as our case counts rise."

This comes as the CDC and the FDA are currently reviewing the data involving six reported cases—among nearly 7 million doses administered in the U.S.—in women between the ages of 18 and 48 who received the J&J vaccine.

Symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets.

Both the CDC and FDA have said that these adverse events are extremely rare. 

However, according to the FDA and CDC, individuals who have received the vaccine and develop abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath, severe headache or other unusual symptoms within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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