NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Louisiana Department of Health has issued an immediate pause on distributing the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine following the FDA and the CDC’s recommendation.
Vaccination events offering the vaccine have been altered, or altogether cancelled.
The recommendation comes after at least six reports of rare, yet severe blood clots.
In a press conference Tuesday morning, officials say they expect the halt on the vaccine to only last a couple of days while they investigate the six cases.
In these cases, officials say a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered. Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.
CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance.
People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.
Ochsner Health, the state’s largest private hospital system, announced they will stop using the J&J vaccine.
Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, which has healthcare facilities throughout Louisiana and Mississipi announced they will stop using the J&J vaccine as well.
“Today’s pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is out of an abundance of caution,” Governor John Bel Edwards said in a statement released Tuesday just before noon. “This morning, I had a call with White House officials and other governors to discuss this issue as we work to safely get as many Louisianans 16 and older vaccinated as quickly and safely as possible. While I understand that this news may be concerning, I remain committed to working alongside public health experts to make sure people can get the answers they need to make an informed decision,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Right now, there are two safe and effective vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna – available and being administered in Louisiana and I encourage everyone in Louisiana to keep their appointments and to take advantage of the vaccines we have available. Nearly one million Louisianans have already completed their vaccinations against COVID-19. There have been around 85,000 Johnson and Johnson doses administered in Louisiana and no reported cases of this rare blood clot that we are aware of. In the short-term, this means some community vaccination events may have to be rescheduled or shifted to use Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for now and working with the team from the Louisiana Department of Health and health care officials, we will continue the important work of administering vaccines.”
“While this news is frustrating and concerning, we appreciate the FDA acting with abundant caution and transparency,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s State Health Officer. “We do not yet know whether these reported cases of blood clotting were caused by the vaccine. The State of Louisiana takes vaccine safety very seriously, and this temporary pause should give the public and providers confidence the system of monitoring and safety checks are working as intended.”
Major providers like CVS and Walgreens have issued statements echoing the advice of federal health officials.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health, of the 2.3 million vaccines administered in the state, 85,261, or 3.65% have been Johnson & Johnson.
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