State officials announced changes in vaccination efforts on Tuesday after top health organizations recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The move comes after The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they were recommending a pause upon reports that six people developed "rare and severe" blood clots after receiving the vaccine. All six were women between the ages of 18 and 48; each began to experience symptoms within three weeks of receiving the vaccine.
So far, nearly 7 million Americans have received a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said during a press conference Tuesday that the clotting events led to the death of one patient and that another patient remains in critical condition.
The pause is expected to last at least several days and could last up to a week.
State officials announced Tuesday morning they would halt the use of the vaccine, and Hamilton County Public Health said they would follow state recommendations.
In response to the extremely rare blood-clotting events of six people after receiving the J&J vaccine, the Ohio Dept. of Health is advising providers to temporarily pause using the J&J vaccine.— Hamilton County Public Health (@HamCoHealth) April 13, 2021
HCPH is following state guidance and pause all distribution of the J&J vaccine.
Exactly 264,311 Ohioans had been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson — far fewer than had received either competing vaccine — when the state announced it would suspend use of the vaccine, according to Gov. Mike DeWine.
However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been central to Ohio’s mass-vaccination sites and campus vaccination programs, the latter of which had aimed to vaccinate many college students before the end of their spring semester.
Most colleges will switch to a two-dose vaccine, DeWine said in a Tuesday afternoon news conference. The University of Cincinnati will begin distributing Pfizer doses.
But Miami University and some mass vaccination sites, including the one run out of Xavier University’s Cintas Center in Cincinnati, will suspend vaccination while the FDA and CDC reevaluate the vaccine. DeWine said the state has instructed providers that already received Johnson & Johnson doses to store them until further notice.
Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus Health Commissioner, said patients who had recently received a Johnson & Johnson shot should monitor themselves for possible symptoms of an adverse reaction: "Headache, change in vision, shortness of breath, swelling and pain, consistent nausea and vomiting that doesn’t go away."
If they feel any of these symptoms, they should consult a doctor and let that doctor know they received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
DeWine and members of his administration said Ohioans should be encouraged, not worried, by the government's decision to halt vaccination with Johnson & Johnson over a small number of adverse outcomes.
"The bottom line is that these cases appear to be extremely rare, and the fact that the CDC and the FDA have raised concerns and pushed the pause button on the basis of these six cases should give Ohioans great confidence in not only the priority that is being placed on vaccine safety but also the reliability and transparency of the CDC and FDA’s monitoring systems," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical advisor for the Ohio Department of Health. "Today’s announcement really shows that that system works. It works well and reinforces our confidence in continuing to administer the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna — vaccines which have, after all, gone into arms more than 180 million times."
"We know that during this pause, Ohioans should continue to be vaccinated," DeWine said. "As several doctors have said, 'The vaccination you want is the vaccination you can get now.'”
Kentucky has received 210,000 Johnson & Johnson doses, and while the governor did not specify just how many doses have been administered, he said 60,000 of those doses were received just last week.
Beshear said no side effects have been reported in the state, and that most of the J&J doses have been given out via the state’s independent pharmacies and correctional institutions.
The pause will not lead to the closure of Kentucky's mass vaccination sites, as they mostly have Pfizer and Moderna doses. However, Beshear recognized the pause will affect vaccinating some of the state’s hardest-to-reach populations, like people who are incarcerated and people experiencing homelessness.
Beshear said Kentuckians with an appointment to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than four to five days out should hold the appointment in case the vaccine is allowed to be administered again. Anyone with an appointment in the next few days should reach out to their provider.