The federal agencies recommended states put a hold on further use of the one-dose vaccine while researchers investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. The CDC and FDA know of six women who experienced blood clots that happened 6 to 13 days after vaccination. More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
Here is how health departments in the St. Louis area are handling the recommendation.
Missouri health officials said they will follow the federal recommendation and immediately pause administration of the vaccine until further notice.
“In an abundance of caution and as per federal guidelines, we are pausing vaccination with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine until further notice in Missouri,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services. “We anticipate having more information shortly to make further decisions about overall vaccine distribution in light of this new development and will continue to update citizens who have been vaccinated with the J&J vaccine after the advisory committee meets at the federal level tomorrow.”
The state recommended those who received the J&J vaccine who develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting the shot should call their health care provider. Anyone with other clinical questions can also call the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 877-435-8411.
The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced it's pausing the use of the single-dose vaccine out of an abundance of caution. The state said Pfizer and Moderna make up the vast majority of doses on hand. For the week of April 18, the state expected to receive 483,720 total doses and of that, 5,800 were expected to be J&J.
"IDPH has notified all Illinois COVID-19 providers throughout the state to discontinue use of the J&J vaccine at this time. In order to keep appointments, IDPH is strongly advising providers to use Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines," the state said in a news release Tuesday morning.
The St. Clair County Health Department also confirmed it will temporarily stop using J&J.
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St. Louis County
The St. Louis County Department of Public Health also said it’s pausing use of the vaccine and will switch to Pfizer for any appointments that were scheduled to use the J&J version.
The county health department has administered more than 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines; 1,739 of them have been J&J, a health department spokesperson confirmed.
The health department is sending emails to those who were given the vaccine and asked that they report any side effects to a health care provider. So far, no instances of blood clots have been reported among those who received the vaccine from the county, the department said.
The change should not impact the number of doses that the health department is able to administer each week, the county executive said. More than 18,000 doses are scheduled to be administered in the next week.
City of St. Louis
The City of St. Louis Department of Health said it will follow Missouri's orders to pause the use of the single-dose vaccine.
"The Department of Health will continue to utilize its allotments of the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines for upcoming clinics, including two days of Moderna second-dose clinics at America’s Center - 8th Street and Washington entrance, scheduled for this weekend," the health department said in a release Tuesday morning.
A vaccine clinic planned for Tuesday at Saint Louis University will switch to using the Moderna vaccine instead, which the college said could complicate things for students who might not be on campus when the second dose is needed.
"We know that many of you were eager to get the “one-and-done” shot, and we understand this complicates your plans. This is especially important for our students, who are not planning to be on campus in 28 days to obtain the second dose. We still believe that getting vaccinated now is critical for our community in order to keep our campus safe and help us return to a more normal college experience," SLU said in a statement, while offering options for how students can get a second dose.
Local health departments
Jefferson County confirmed it's halting using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while the federal investigation is underway. The county administered about 500 of the doses on Monday, "with no serious adverse reactions reported," the health department confirmed.
The Lincoln County Health Department paused using the vaccine. The county confirmed it has administered 39 doses in total and that its weekly clinics do not use J&J.
Pike County, Missouri also confirmed it's pausing use of the J&J vaccine pending the investigation from the federal health agencies. Pike County said it was scheduled to use the J&J vaccine Tuesday, but those with appointments can receive the Moderna shot instead if they would like.
5 On Your Side has contacted several other local health departments and vaccine providers. We will update this story as we receive more information.
In a joint statement released Tuesday morning, the CDC and FDA said the blood clots were observed in the sinuses of the brain along with reduced platelet counts – making the usual treatment for blood clots, the blood thinner heparin, potentially “dangerous.”
"Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare," the FDA said in its statement. "This is important to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot."
CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices 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.
“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a joint statement.
Johnson & Johnson said it was aware of the reports of “thromboembolic events,” or blood clots, but that no link to its vaccine had been established.
“We are aware that thromboembolic events including those with thrombocytopenia have been reported with Covid-19 vaccines," said Johnson & Johnson in a statement. "At present, no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events and the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine.”
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not affected by this pause.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.