Johnson & Johnson vaccine on pause

Advanced EMT Whitney Witherspoon prepares a COVID vaccine at Campbell County Memorial Hospital as the initial round of vaccinations were administered in December of last year.

Campbell County is joining other parts of the country in pausing its use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as federal officials investigate a handful of rare and severe cases of blood clots in six women who received the shot in the United States.

“As of this morning, we have suspended using J&J,” Jane Glaser, the executive director of Campbell County Public Health said. “Anybody who did have an appointment with us who requested J&J, they can still receive vaccine, it will just be Moderna instead, if that is what they want.”

Federal regulators recommended pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the United States after six cases of rare and severe blood clotting occurred in women between 18 and 48, according to a Tuesday statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Glaser said that the Wyoming Department of Health advised Tuesday morning that all sites administering Johnson & Johnson halt its use.

As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered throughout the country.

In each of the six cases, according to the statement, the blood clot, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, occurred alongside a decreased level in blood platelets and happened six to 13 days after vaccination. However, the typical treatment for blood clots, an anticoagulant called heparin, may be dangerous when treating those specific blood clots, requiring alternative treatments.

Currently, the instances of blood clotting under investigation appear to be extremely rare, according to the statement.

In Campbell County, 753 people have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine of the 2,300 doses that have made it into the county as of April 12, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Wyoming as a whole has received 24,400 doses of the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine being investigated federally and administered 9,553 of them as of April 12.

There have not been any severe reactions to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Campbell County, Glaser said. Public Health received 700 doses this past month and recently began offering it as an option for patients during its weekly vaccine clinics.

The first Johnson & Johnson doses received by the county were given to Campbell County Health to administer to the public.

“As far as I know, there’s not been any reaction either from the doses the hospital gave or from what we’ve given,” Glaser said.

The Johnson & Johnson shot has been popular in the community for its more traditional development and single-shot use, Glaser said. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses spaced three to four weeks apart.

“We have seen a lot of vaccine hesitancy in Campbell County, especially in the beginning,” she said. “The longer we’ve been administering the vaccine, I have seen a decline in hesitancy.”

But with the latest caution surrounding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Glaser said she is concerned it could stoke renewed hesitancy toward the immunization.

Glaser said the cluster of cases occurring with similar unexpected reactions is enough to warrant the CDC and FDA investigation. Now, the federal organizations are working towards determining if there is a causal relationship between the reactions and the vaccine, rather than coincidence.

“Anytime you start to see a correlation with different side effects, almost like a cluster type of a situation, CDC is going to take that very seriously to investigate,” Glaser said.

Smith's Pharmacy in Gillette also has paused its use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in light of the federal recommendation.

It is recommended that those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who then go on to develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of inoculation reach out to their health care providers.

Adverse events or reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States are to be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System by health care providers.

Public Health continues to offer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine appointments can still also be scheduled through Smith’s, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies.

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