Johnson & Johnson

NY, NJ, CT Halt J&J Vaccinations on Feds' Suggestion as States Scramble for Alternatives

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.

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What to Know

  • Tri-state health and elected officials are pausing Johnson & Johnson vaccination administration in accordance with new recommendations from the CDC and the FDA on Tuesday
  • The recommendation came after reports of unusual clots in six women that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination; all six cases were in women between age 18 and 48. One of the women died
  • More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S. to date; most recipients report no or mild side effects

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut all said they would pause administering Johnson & Johnson vaccines in accordance with new recommendations from the FDA and CDC Tuesday. Now, officials are scrambling to reallocate two-dose regimens and reschedule appointments for tens of thousands of people.

In the Empire State, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said all appointments for Johnson & Johnson vaccines at state-run mass vaccination sites Tuesday would be honored with the Pfizer vaccine. It's not clear what happens after that.

“I am in constant contact with the federal government, and we will update New Yorkers as more information becomes available,” Zucker said in a news release.

The federal calls to pause the United States' only single-dose vaccine regimen came after reports of unusual clots in six women that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48. One of the women died. No other details on those cases were clear. (Here are potential side effects to look for if you recently got the J&J shot.)

Dr. Anthony Fauci said there was one common symptom in the six cases: a headache. He also said that the pause should only last a few days, and won't be enough to disrupt the pace of vaccinations.

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are all pausing the distribution of the J&J vaccine after the FDA and CDC made the recommendation Tuesday. News 4's Gaby Acevedo reports on the implications for the tri-state vaccination rollout.

The pause comes as the State University of New York has been rushing to vaccinate tens of thousands of students before the end of the semester next month.

SUNY said last week that 350,000 students were being urged to make appointments on 34 campuses. SUNY said it would use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because its one-dose protocol would ensure students would be fully vaccinated by the time they left campus.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Jim Malatras said SUNY was working with New York state to locate alternative COVID-19 vaccines.

“We urge all students with appointments for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to contact their campus or vaccination site because alternatives have already been found in some instances,” he said in a statement.

Several colleges announced the cancellation of vaccination clinics planned for Tuesday.

Medical experts offer their insight into the recommended U.S. pause for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who himself received the J&J shot last month along with Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, described the pause as a significant setback, particularly for the city's homebound seniors program. That program relies exclusively on Johnson & Johnson's single-dose regimen.

The pause means New York City will have to reschedule or rearrange roughly 4,000 vaccine appointments a day that use Johnson & Johnson's shot. It's not clear how long the pause could last, but de Blasio said the city's effort continues: "Our effort continues strong and will continue today and every day until we beat this disease.”

As a result of the pause, the mayor said the city's initiative to get the vaccine to homebound seniors will have to be suspended for the time being, as that relied on using the J&J shot. De Blasio said their hope is to get back running as soon as possible.

Chokshi said city-run sites have administered about 234,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with no reports of the type of blood clot that prompted the federal warning Tuesday. He said health officials continue to monitor the data.

“We continue to monitor for that, of course, in coordination with our federal partners, but we have not seen that thus far,” Chokshi said. NYC Chief medical Adviser Dr. Jay Varma said that rather than worry, New Yorkers should welcome the news.

"This is a sign the U.S. has a system in place that identifies even the most rare events," he said.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, explains what to monitor if you recently received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

In New Jersey, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said all of the state's vaccination sites — about 700 total, officials have said — will cancel or put appointments for the J&J vaccine on hold. Authorities will work to arrange two-dose vaccinations but that may not be feasible in all cases.

The state has administered more than 236,000 doses of the J&J vaccine, with no known problems reported. Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday that he didn't believe there would be a shortage of doses, and said that "no one who has received this vaccine should panic or worry." He also said that the stoppage won't get in the way of the state achieving its goal of vaccinating 4.7 residents by the end of June.

Dr. Suraj Saggar, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Holy Name Medical Center, said that the pause will actually allow time for scientists to delve into the history of the women who developed clots after receiving the shot. Still, some believe the story is a gut punch to vaccination advocates.

"Somewhat dismayed in regards to this is just going to make some of the folks that are on the fence on whether they should get the vaccine or not maybe more hesitant to get it," said Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco. "Which isn't good for us, right?"

The pause in New Jersey comes just as the supply of J&J vaccines ebbs from more than 130,000 last week to 15,000 this week. Next week just 5,000 doses of the single-shot vaccine are expected, Persichilli said. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had warned the state was expected an 88 percent drop in its weekly allocation.

Health leaders in Connecticut, meanwhile, said they have informed vaccine providers planning to hold clinics using J&J on Tuesday and in the coming days to delay those clinics or offer an alternative vaccine if they have a supply.

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers

Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC

Agency officials said they would work with vaccine providers “to minimize the disruptions from this announcement in the near-term to the extent possible, but we anticipate that some cancellations will occur.”

Vaccine providers are being urged to reach out to people who were scheduled to receive a Johnson & Johnson dose and let them know them know their appointments will need to be rescheduled, officials said.

Connecticut had hoped to use a lot of its Johnson & Johnson vaccine at various mobile clinics as part of an effort to reach underserved populations. The FEMA mobile unit, which is currently in New Britain, was changing its schedule and would be offering the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. It was unclear when that change would happen.

Vaccine vans operated by Griffin Health suspended their operations for Tuesday.

To date, roughly 100,000 Connecticut residents have received the J&J vaccine with no reported serious problems, officials have said.

"I salute the CDC for erring on the side of caution," said Gov. Ned Lamont. "To give everybody that sense of confidence."

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. The FDA will convene an advisory committee Wednesday to decide appropriate next steps.

The other two authorized vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, make up the vast share of COVID-19 shots administered in the U.S. and are not affected by the pause.

Dr. Peter Marks, Director, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, explains why the FDA recommended a pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine despite the appearance of blood clots being so rare.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Johnson & Johnson said the clots were an "extremely rare disorder ... in a small number of individuals who have received our COVID-19 vaccine." As a result, they have also delayed the rollout of the shot in Europe.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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