Laurel Health Department pausing use of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine

Emily Adams-Bentley, The Sentinel Echo, London, Ky.
·2 min read

Apr. 14—The Laurel County Health Department is putting a "pause" on the administering of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.

On Tuesday, the Laurel County Health Department announced on its Facebook page that it would be pausing the distribution of the J&J vaccine after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced that they were investigating unusual clots that occurred in people six to 13 days after receiving the J&J vaccine.

The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48; there was one death and all remain under investigation.

More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been given in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.

The Laurel County Health Department posted to their Facebook page, "As more information becomes available, we will provide updates. Hopefully we will know more tomorrow (Wednesday) or Thursday."

Laurel County Health Department Public Health Director Mark Hensley said he was notified of the recommendation by the Kentucky Department of Public Health on Tuesday morning to cease administration of the vaccine for the time being. Hensley said he has not been in contact with other vaccination sites in the county that may be administering the J&J vaccine, though.

"It will most likely set us back a few days as we wait on a decision from the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices)," Hensley said of how this pause may impact the administration of all COVID-19 vaccinations.

When asked if the Pfizer and/or Moderna will be available in place of the J&J vaccine during this pause, Hensley said that would depend on "how long the pause actually is."

"We are hopeful that the ACIP renders a decision soon," he said.

The other two authorized vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, make up the vast share of COVID-19 shots administered in the U.S. and are not affected by the pause.

"I'd like to stress these events appear to be extremely rare. However COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority," FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said at a news conference. "We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause."

A CDC committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the cases and the FDA has also launched an investigation into the cause of the clots and low platelet counts.

CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat said authorities have not seen similar clots after use of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and that people should continue to get vaccinated with those shots.