The U.S. on Tuesday recommended a "pause" in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots, a development that could jeopardize the rollout of vaccines around the world.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced that they were investigating unusual clots that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. The FDA commissioner said she expected the pause to last a matter of days.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have each taken action quickly.
NEW YORK CITY
So far, New York City has administered 234,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine and there have been no reports of blood clots.
The city-run vaccine appointments will be postponing anyone scheduled for Johnson & Johnson appointments and rescheduling them for Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations "for the foreseeable future."
The state-run Javits Center said that they would not be canceling anyone's appointments, rather anyone who had been scheduled for a Johnson & Johnson vaccine would instead receive a Pfizer shot.
IMPORTANT: If you have an appointment TODAY at a State-run mass vaccination site for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you will be offered the Pfizer vaccine instead. You do NOT need to cancel your appointment.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 13, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio noted both he and Health Commissioner David Chokshi received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"We believe in the effectiveness of this vaccine," de Blasio said.
He added his disappointment about the "bad news" but said he was encouraged that the early warning system was working.
"There have been a few instances of blood clots, apparently very rare in the scheme of things, six cases out of seven million shots. Out of an abundance of caution, federal authorities are calling for pause, a full investigation to be done," the mayor said.
He called for the federal government to provide more Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to the city, in whatever way possible. Some 4,000 appointments are believed to be affected, Dr. Chokshi said.
"We are asking for the federal government to help us. We are hearing reports from around the country of places that are not asking for or using the vaccine they have gotten. The federal government needs to step in. Any place not using their vaccine, send it to New York City for God's sake. We have an endless need, endless demand. We've got to get millions more people vaccinated. We need more vaccine immediately to make up for this challenge," de Blasio said.
So far, 5,180,338 total doses of COVID vaccines have been administered in New York City.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo, who also received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in March, spoke about the pause Tuesday.
He said the state has stopped using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for now until they get approval to use again.
"We do have enough Pfizer and we do have enough Moderna vaccination to keep our schedule, and to keep those numbers happening," Cuomo said.
The governor added it was a wise decision by the federal government put a pause on the vaccine and "advise health care workers to be aware of this."
Officials in Putnam County, New York, announced that all appointments for Johnson & Johnson vaccines for Tuesday at the PCDOH site have been canceled and all individuals will be offered the Moderna vaccine.
On Long Island, Nassau County is also pausing the distribution of the J and J vaccine at all of its county-run facilities.
The vaccine was supposed to be distributed at the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran says Northwell Health has provided the county with the Moderna vaccine for those appointments.
Most people who were in line on Tuesday at the Coliseum had no idea they were about to get the Moderna vaccine instead of Johnson & Johnson.
"As long as it keeps us safe, OK, with everything that's going on, we're OK," said Kim Clarelli, of Hempstead who was there with her friend for both of them to get the vaccine.
Sophia Davis, of Valley Stream, said it did not bother her that she would have to return for a second dose.
"No, not one bit," she said.
Curran described the news of J&J as a "setback" but says only 1 to 2% of county residents have received that vaccine.
"Most of our progress in the county has been done with a very small percentage of Johnson & Johnson. We've had incredible success with the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines," Curran said. "So since this news broke, my administration has been working to re-evaluate our operations, our county-run operations, so we can continue to keep up our record pace."
Curran says nearly 50% of Nassau County residents, more than 600,000 people, have been vaccinated.
In Suffolk County, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has also been paused. Officials are not aware of any cases occurring among the approximately 2,000 residents who have received the vaccine through the County Health Department thus far.
"While this issue appears to be extremely rare, CDC and FDA are acting in a very cautious manner that underscores our commitment to vaccine safety," said Dr. Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services. "We will be closely monitoring the federal review process and use that information to help guide our efforts here in Suffolk County in the days ahead."
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine represents about 2% of the total supply of vaccines the Suffolk County Department of Health has received to date, so the pause is not expected to dramatically slow the pace of vaccinations dispensed by Suffolk County.
Meantime, in New Jersey it was a similar situation of managing rescheduled appointments.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli released a statement that said in part, "All New Jersey vaccination sites have been told to cancel or put on hold appointments for the J&J vaccine until further notice. For individuals scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine, the Department will work with all vaccination sites to make arrangements for the administration of an alternative two-dose vaccine. We will work with all sites, as needed, to reschedule vaccination appointments."
The state also urged anyone who had the shot in the past three weeks and develops abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath, severe headache, or other unusual symptoms to contact their health care provider.
In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont said governors were told Tuesday morning that they will see a "6 to 7% increase" in Moderna and Pfizer vaccines next week.
They were told the "pause in J&J is going to be measured in days, not weeks."
None of the six cases of rare blood clots are known to have come from Connecticut.
The Department of Public Health informed vaccine providers that were planning to hold clinics using J&J Tuesday and in the coming days to delay these clinics or offer an alternative vaccine if they have alternative vaccines available.
"DPH will work with providers to minimize the disruptions from this announcement in the near-term to the extent possible, but we anticipate that some cancellations will occur," a statement said. "DPH has also encouraged providers to reach out to all individuals who were scheduled to come to a J&J clinic and let them know that their appointment will need to be rescheduled once the FDA and CDC have recommend resuming administration of the J&J vaccine."
A FEMA mobile unit, currently in New Britain, is also working to modify its schedule. It will be offering an mRNA vaccine instead of J&J vaccine when it resumes. The Griffin vaccine vans, which currently administer J&J vaccine, have suspended their clinics for Tuesday.
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