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Minimal impact expected as Utah follows CDC lead in pausing Johnson & Johnson vaccine



PROVO, Utah – On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the Federal Drug Administration announced a recommended pause on the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine following six reported cases of a rare and severe blood clot in individuals who received it.

“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,” a joint statement from the CDC and FDA said. “FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”

More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the United States, with only those six cases being reported.

All six of the cases that involved the rare blood clots were in women aged 18-48, with the symptoms occurring six to 13 days after receiving the vaccine. The symptoms were treatable.

“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” a joint statement from the CDC and FDA said. “COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the Utah Department of Health said that nearly 77,000 J&J vaccines have been administered in the state with no reported blood clot patients among those who have received it.

The state department of health will coordinate with the FDA and CDC to determine how to move forward, according to the statement.

“Even though these cases have occurred in just one out of every one-million people who have received the vaccine, and even though it will slow our efforts to vaccinate Utah residents against COVID-19, calling for this pause is the right thing to do,” said Rich Saunders, UDOH executive director, in a release. “It’s critical the public be confident in the COVID-19 vaccines, and in order to build and maintain that confidence reports like these must be taken seriously and fully investigated to determine what role, if any, the vaccine played.”

Most of the vaccines administered throughout the state are the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as well, accounting for over 1.8 million doses being administered in Utah.

When looking ahead for scheduling purposes, the counties coordinate with the state to figure out how many vaccines and which ones will be available each week. Last week the state received a big boost of J&J vaccines, which Utah County Health Department Public Information Officer Aislynn Tolman-Hill said was the largest it had received to date.

She added that the state also will see a minimal impact because of the pause.

“We do see this as something that is unfortunate and disappointing for individuals who were looking forward to getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Tolman-Hill said. “It’s certainly something that we are disappointed at from a public health level as well, but people are doing their due diligence to hold a pause and it is something that really should not make people hesitant to receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. This pause in no way affects either of those vaccines.”

While the pause may spark vaccine hesitancy for some, Tolman-Hill said the health department has still seen encouragement from individuals about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. This is something the health department strongly encourages, according to Tolman-Hill.

Tolman-Hill pointed those with concerns over the J&J vaccine to the CDC website, reminding people who may have received the vaccine recently to be aware of their symptoms and contact a healthcare provider if they experience severe headaches, abdominal cramping, or leg pain.

While the pause on the vaccine may have a bigger impact in other states and regions, the state of Utah should see a minimal impact due to the pause.