By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, also stylized as the J&J vaccine, is temporarily on hold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are looking into reports of blood clots possibly caused by the vaccine.
According to a statement released by the CDC and FDA on Tuesday, April 13, over 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been distributed in the U.S. However, there have been six reported cases of blood clots called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in women between the ages of 18 and 48. Symptoms appeared six to 13 days after receiving the single dose vaccination.
Johnson & Johnson released a statement on Tuesday, April 13 regarding the situation: “The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority…Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in the use of our vaccine.”
The company stated that it is reviewing cases with European health authorities and is temporarily delaying the vaccine rollout in Europe. The group has been working with medical experts and health authorities to make sure this information is available to the public.
During the Wisconsin Department of Health Services weekly COVID-19 media briefings, Julie Willems Van Dijk, the deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, remarked on the announcement.
“To prioritize the heath and safety of our residents and to provide enough time to learn more and make evidence-based decisions about the effect of this news on vaccine rollout, we have paused the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Wisconsin,” Willem Van Dijk said.
She went on to explain that the clots are considered adverse reactions and are very rare.
“If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, please know this is very unlikely to affect you,” she said. “If you experienced these symptoms, especially in that time frame, please contact your health provider.”
It is common to have flu like symptoms 24 to 48 hours after vaccine, these symptoms include mild headaches and aches.
The adverse symptoms – that is ones that cause concern – include severe headache, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, leg pain, or new vision problems. These adverse side effects generally occur six to 15 days after vaccine.
Willem Van Dijk said the department is using the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, which is used by providers across the country. The system allows providers to report adverse side effects. Individuals who have received the vaccine can also sign up for V-Safe at vsafe. cdc.gov. V-Safe provides information on vaccine side effects and individuals can use it to report adverse side effects.
Willem Van Dijk said that the pause on the Johnson & Johnson will give them time to learn more about the vaccination and potential side effects before making more decisions.
She stressed that there have been zero reports of these adverse side effects with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. She said that 96% of the vaccines given in Wisconsin are one of those two vaccines, as of Tuesday, April 13.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve talked about doing our part, how we’re all in this together, how in Wisconsin, we take care of our neighbors,” Willem Van Dijk said. “Getting vaccinated is the newest tool we have and the newest way to do your part.”
During the Milwaukee County COVID-19 media briefings, County Executive David Crowley said that the county would be halting the distribution of the vaccine at the Kosciuszko Community Center, the Milwaukee County House of Corrections and the Milwaukee County Jail.
Health experts will continue to monitor the situation, he said.
“Don’t let today’s Johnson & Johnson news alarm you,” he said. “Getting the vaccine is still our best option in fighting COVID- 19, especially since we are experiencing a rise in case numbers in our county and across the state.”
Distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has likewise been halted in the City of Milwaukee. Mayor Tom Barrett said the FDA and CDC are reacting appropriately by pushing the pause button and that he remains optimistic about vaccine distribution.
As of last week, the Milwaukee Health Department has administrated over 61,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and over 19,000 of the Moderna vaccine and over 1,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Barrett said. He said the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will not affect vaccine distribution in the City of Milwaukee.