Pa. calls for a halt to Johnson & Johnson vaccines after reports of blood clots

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Kent State University student Marz Anderson gets his Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination from Kent State nurse Beth Krul in Kent, Ohio, Thursday, April 8, 2021. U.S. colleges hoping for a return to normalcy next fall are weighing how far they should go in urging students to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including whether they should — or legally can — require it. (AP Photo/Phil Long)

The state Health Department has directed all COVID-19 vaccine providers to stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of blood clots in some recipients.

The directive came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday announced they were investigating extremely rare cases of unusual clots occurring six to 13 days after individuals were vaccinated, The Associated Press reported. 

The vaccine had been viewed as a valuable tool to inoculate Americans and others across the globe, given the fact that it only requires one dose, unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which each require two.

“While this announcement is challenging, it highlights the vaccine evaluation process,” acting state Health Secretary Alison Beam said in a statement.

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Pennsylvania has called for a halt of any use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until at least April 20.

WellSpan Health and UPMC have not been administering any doses of the J&J vaccine in York County, according to officials. The J&J doses available in March had been reserved for teachers and other school staff.

The announcement from U.S. officials also triggered European countries to halt use of the vaccine, The Associated Press reported.

Hundreds of thousands of doses were scheduled to be delivered to European countries that have struggled with supply shortages.

Reports of blood clots after receiving the vaccine have been very rare. 

The CDC and FDA are reviewing six incidents of blood clots in women between the ages of 18 and 48. About 6.8 million Americans have received the vaccine in total, The Associated Press reported.

While WellSpan and UPMC have not been giving the J&J vaccine in the central Pennsylvania region, UPMC spokesperson Kelly McCall said that in other regions of the state where it has been administered, the health system is following the guidelines to halt its use.

"Although serious side effects to the vaccine are extremely rare, especially those described in relation to Tuesday’s announcement, UPMC is temporarily pausing the use of the J&J vaccine," the health care provider announced in a statement.

Stephanie Andreozzi, a member of WellSpan Health’s vaccination team, confirmed it has not been offering any Johnson & Johnson doses at its vaccination locations.

In addition, she said in a statement, WellSpan has an ample supply of other vaccine doses and the capacity to expand eligibility to all Pennsylvania adults, which took effect Tuesday.

"We do not anticipate any widespread operational changes in relation to the guidance issued by the CDC and FDA," she said.

A CDC committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the six cases in which blood clots occurred, The Associated Press reported. The FDA has also launched an investigation.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.