Pennsylvania Joins National Pause on J&J Vaccine

Acting state Secretary of Health Alison Beam speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Screenshot)

By Patrick Abdalla

April 13, 2021

Health officials said the pause is being made “out of an abundance of caution.”

UPDATE: Pennsylvania has lifted the pause on the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

“After a thorough review, federal experts have determined that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe for all individuals,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said in a news release. “We continue to urge individuals to get vaccinated as soon as possible with any of the three vaccines available to them. Getting vaccinated is essential as we work to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and also of serious and fatal complications due to the virus.”

Original story follows.

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania joined a growing number of states pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine Tuesday, after federal regulators launched an inquiry into a handful of “extremely rare” but serious blood clots.

The pause will last until at least April 24, according to acting state Secretary of Health Alison Beam. She said the pause is being made “out of an abundance of caution.”

“We understand that this announcement may be challenging for those who are looking to get vaccinated as well as those who have already received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Beam said. “We have said these vaccines would be the most scrutinized and watched vaccines ever in history. And this step reflects this. The action today reflects the federal government’s commitment to protect Americans.”

Healthcare providers will continue to administer the Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines, as they have not had similar side effects and are not being paused.

Beam initially said on Tuesday that none of the women were from Pennsylvania. However, NBC10 in Philadelphia reported Wednesday that a woman from Pennsylvania had been hospitalized in New Jersey with the severe side effect. The TV station reports she is the only one of the women to have been released from the hospital so far.

Why is Administration of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Being Paused?

The halt came after six women, all between the ages of 18 and 48, developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), a very dangerous type of blood clots that form in the brain and can cause strokes. The women developed the side effects within two weeks of receiving Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines, according to the CDC. One of the women died as a result. 

CVST in Recipients of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

More than 6.8 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. Only 1 in 1 million vaccine recipients developed CVST.

Meanwhile, 1 in 600 Americans have died from coronavirus-related complications.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday morning that they were pausing administration of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

The CDC and Food and Drug Administration will convene a panel of independent experts to determine the seriousness of the issues and what additional advice should be given.

How Prominent is the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine in PA?

Approximately 5.1 million Pennsylvanians have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine; of those, 260,000 received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Pennsylvania has targeted teachers, first responders, and front-line workers for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Beam said Pennsylvanians who have been vaccinated within the last 3 weeks and have developed a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Healthcare Providers Will Continue to Administer Moderna and Pfizer Vaccines 

People should keep their existing appointments to get the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, according to the state Department of Health. Those two-shot vaccine regimens trigger the body’s immune system to protect against COVID-19 in a different way than the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

“There have been no red flags” with those two vaccines, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

People who were scheduled to get Johnson & Johnson vaccines will get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines if they’re available or have their appointment rescheduled for a time when one of the vaccines is available.

Should Pennsylvanians Who Got the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Worry? 

No, Pennsylvanians who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should not worry. 

The halt means that the handful of issues were detected and, because they were serious enough, prompted a pause for federal regulatory agencies to investigate and determine next steps. The CDC and FDA could end up changing their recommendations about who should get the vaccine, and how healthcare providers should monitor those at risk of developing the rare clots.  

“Blood clots are a lot more common than we are seeing here, the 1 in a million,” said Dr. Denise Johnson, the physician general of Pennsylvania. “I believe that the CDC and the FDA came out to put a pause on this so that we could really evaluate what is going on here. And to also make sure that providers, when they see these patients, that they are treating them appropriately.”

UPDATE: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, April 15, 2021, to show that the state has extended the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that one of the women who suffered severe blood clots was from Pennsylvania.


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