J&J Pause Has Only Slight Effect on DC Vaccinations

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In a 1 p.m. April 13th press call, DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said that no cases of the rare blood clot after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been reported by DC residents or providers administering the vaccine.

“As a typical practice in public health, if an event occurs, it is reported to the health jurisdicition in which the inidvidual lives,” Nesbitt said. “But I can clarify that our providers have not reported this to us, which would include them vaccinating a resident or an essential worker vaccinated in DC.”

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement Tuesday morning recommending a pause in use of the vaccine.

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 Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine have been administered in the US.

“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” said the statement, adding that FDA and CDC take all reports of adverse vaccine effects seriously.

1,300 Johnson and Johnson appointments were available this week through vaccinate.dc.gov portal, Dr. Nesbitt said. 4,000 more were allocated to retail pharmacies and 4,100 to federal entities.

16,000 people have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the District.

The risk to those who received the vaccine a month or more ago is low. Those who got it in the last three weeks, should be aware of symptoms related to the rare disorder: severe headache, abdominal or leg pain or shortness of breath. Those people should contact their medical health providers.

DC Heath informed all providers of the pause at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, notifying them to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. At the same time they sent notice to the 1,300 people scheduled to receive it. They will receive appointments to reschedule later Tueday.

The homebound vaccination program will be delayed by the pause, Dr. Nesbitt said, but vaccine eligibility not otherwise affected. 1,300 Johnson & Johnson appointments were avail this week thru the vaccinate.dc.gov portal; 4,000 to retail pharmacies and 4,100 allocated to federal entities.

Nesbitt said that DC Health is confident that the programs vaccinating the unhoused and incarcerated populations will be able to pivot to Moderna and Pfizer. Some of the cancelled 1,300 Johnson and Johnson appointments will be accomodated using any no-show appointments from this week. The others will be filled next week.

The Arena Stage high-capacity site, which opened Apr 9, was administering Johnson and Johnson vaccines. DC Health Public Health Dr. Ankoor Shah said the providers, Safeway and MedStar Health, have the capability of using Moderna or Pfizer vaccines at the site.

The homebound vaccination program may be delayed by the pause, Dr. Nesbitt said, but vaccine eligibility will not otherwise be affected.

Some have expressed concern that the pause would exaserbate vaccine hesitancy. Nesbitt said that the recommendation to pause “means the system is working properly,” making public officials aware of an extremely rare event and allowing them to act out of an abundance of caution.

Emphasizing DC Health confidence in the Moderna & Pfizer vaccines, Nesbitt says: “Individuals who have concerns about vaccine confidence are reminded to weigh the benefits of vaccination and any potential risk of vaccination against the risk of aquiring COVID-19 infection.”

DC Health encourages everyone to take the vaccine that is available to them as it is available to them, but did note that the type of vaccine administered at each site is indicated when appointments are made through the District portal.

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. Health care providers are asked to report adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System at https://vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html.

Learn more about DC vaccination at vaccinate.dc.gov