Following reports that there have been several cases of severe blood clots associated with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, Californian health officials joined a growing number of states in temporary halting it’s usage on Tuesday.
In a joint a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) press conference, health experts said that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine caused an adverse reaction in at least six women ages 18-48 across the country, causing them to develop cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) blood clots. To date, one woman has died, with another in Nebraska in critical condition. The potential for more developments cause the government agencies to recommend a pause in administering the vaccine until more is known.
“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” said FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Director Dr. Peter Marks and CDC principal deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat in the joint statement on Tuesday. “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 extremely rare type of blood clot.
“More than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S. CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. In these cases, a type of blood clot called CVST was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination.
“Treatment of this specific type of blood clot 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.”
The recommendation had an immediate effect, with dozens of cities and states, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, halting all J&J vaccines earlier in the day before the state of California joined them.
California vows to reopen on schedule despite now having a lower number of vaccines
“Today, the CDC and FDA have recommended a temporary pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine out of an abundance of caution. Of over 6.8 million doses administered nationally, there have been six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot with symptoms occurring 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” explained California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan in a statement on Tuesday.
“California is following the FDA and CDC’s recommendation and has directed health care providers to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until we receive further direction from health and safety experts. Additionally, the state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue. As the federal government has said, we do not expect a significant impact to our vaccination allocations. In California, less than 4% of our vaccine allocation this week is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”
Governor Gavin Newsom added to the official state response saying that, despite the fewer number of vaccines, the California reopening date of June 15th would still be in place.
“Out of an abundance of caution CA will follow the CDC & FDA & temporarily pause use of J&J,” tweeted Newsom “J&J is just 4% of CA’s supply from the feds right now. Vaccines are still overwhelmingly safe. We’re vaccinating 3+ million people a week and are still on track to fully reopen 6/15.”
Out of an abundance of caution CA will follow the CDC & FDA & temporarily pause use of J&J.
J&J is just 4% of CA’s supply from the feds right now.
Vaccines are still overwhelmingly safe.
We’re vaccinating 3+ million people a week and are still on track to fully reopen 6/15.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) April 13, 2021
While currently only a small percentage of vaccine doses being given in California, the sudden drop in the total number of vaccines is expected to slow down vaccinations in the state, especially with all adults being allowed to receive the vaccine beginning on April 15th. Many areas, such as Los Angeles, had ben expecting a 15% drop in its vaccine supply this week, followed by another 5% next week due to the increased demand. With the J&J vaccine now out of commission, those are expected to drop to 20% and 25% respectively.
“We’re expecting more people pissed off that they can’t be vaccinated because of this,” said Jackie Wolfowitz, a nurse who has been administering vaccines in Orange County, to the Globe. “Everyone wanted this one too because you only needed one dose instead of two. So now people will need to come back for a second, which will slow things down a bit
“It was the right move to do, but it’s going to take California longer now.”
It is currently unknown when one-dose J&J vaccines will be reintroduced in California.