NJ pauses use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after rare reports of blood clots
What was once hailed a "game changer" vaccine by Gov. Phil Murphy is getting kicked out of the game for now.
Public health officials on Tuesday said they would pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson shot at all New Jersey sites following news that the federal government would be doing the same.
Federal Health agencies suspended use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at all federally run vaccination sites on Tuesday, according to a report in the New York Times. The action comes after six recipients of the J&J vaccine developed blood clots and one died. All six cases were among women between 18 and 49 who had low levels of blood platelets. More than 7 million doses have been administered in the United States.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Tuesday that the Department of Health would "will work with all vaccination sites to make arrangements for the administration of an alternative two-dose vaccine."
There have been six reported cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis blood clots among 7 million doses of the J&J shot administered in the United States in women between the ages of 18 to 48.
The CDC and the FDA say extreme side effects from the shot are rare. People should contact a doctor if they develop abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath, severe headache or other unusual symptoms within three weeks of getting the vaccine, Persichilli noted Tuesday.
This is the latest setback for the New Brunswick-based pharmaceutical giant. J&J was the third to have their vaccine approved for emergency use in the United States despite a lower efficacy than the multi-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Even before approval, J&J announced they were having production issues and would not be able to deliver as many doses as first promised.
Last month, quality control issues at a manufacturing plan caused millions of doses to be thrown out, further reducing available supply.
At least two people from the New Jersey region — a man from Edison and a woman from New York City — tested positive for COVID-19 after receiving the J&J vaccine. The Edison man remains hospitalized in critical condition.
The blot clot issue is similar to one seen in Europe with a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, which has not been approved for use in the United States. Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Thailand, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Congo, and Bulgaria have all suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Other countries, like Canada, are restricting its use.
It is unclear whether New Jersey will suspend the use of the J&J vaccine. The Murphy administration has not yet responded to requests for comment. Supplies of the vaccine, however, have been dramatically limited due to production problems. Several New Jersey localities have been using their allotment of J&J vaccine to reach homebound residents.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to include the latest information from the state.