MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Mid-South states are pausing use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination after a recommendation by the FDA and CDC following reports of severe blood clots among some recipients.
Health officials in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas said it’s an abundance of caution that is causing them to set the Johnson and Johnson vaccine aside for now.
“We are concerned but not worried. Keep in mind these are six cases in nearly 7 million doses,” said Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph.
The Tennessee Department of Health said Tennessee’s vaccine supply surpasses demand and they do not expect it to impact vaccination efforts.
“While the reports of serious adverse events after the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are rare, six cases out of nearly 7 million doses administered, TDH is taking necessary precautions and is coordinating with our vaccine providers that may have the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in supply to ensure those in our state who are seeking a vaccine have access to vaccines manufactured by Pfizer or Moderna,” reads a statement from TDH. “Both vaccines are highly effective at preventing COVID-19 after 14 days from the second vaccine dose. Both doses are required to achieve the best protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.”
In Memphis where Shelby County vaccinations are managed, anyone scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine will now receive the Pfizer vaccine, according to City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen.
“Vaccination operations will move forward as planned today and the remainder of the week at all public and community-based PODs,” reads a statement from McGowen. “The City of Memphis will honor all appointments and offer Pfizer vaccine at any site that was scheduled for J&J due to the CDC recommendation to pause administration of the J&J vaccine.”
The Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center also said it would stop using the vaccine until further notice. Some vaccine appointments were canceled. Information on rescheduled dates will be provided later.
Mississippi’s state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Tuesday the Mississippi State Department of Health is instructing all physicians, clinics and hospitals to stop using the J&J vaccine until further notice.
“It seems to be very rare. It seems to be less than one in a million,” said Dobbs.
A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Health said in an email Tuesday the department is following recommendations from the FDA and CDC, pausing use of the J&J vaccine.
In Tennessee, more than 318,000 people have received the J J vaccine. In Mississippi nearly 42,000 people have.
“We have ordered and distributed to providers more than 95,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson in Mississippi,” Mississippi State Epidemiologist Paul Byers said. “A good number of those in the last week, more than 40,000. We have communicated to those providers not to utilize those doses.”
Arkansas canceled all clinics using J&J. That includes one planned to start Tuesday in West Memphis. There’s a chance those clinics could start back up on Wednesday with Pfizer or Moderna.
Early Tuesday, the U.S. health agencies recommended a “pause” in the administration of the J&J vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.
The agencies released a joint statement saying they were investigating unusual clots in six women that occurred six to 13 days after receiving the single-dose vaccine. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48.
The U.S. has administered more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine.
Health officials said if you experience severe headache abdominal pain or leg pain within the first two weeks after getting the shot you should see your doctor.
These side effects have not been reported in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The Tennessee Department of Health said currently supply outweighs demand, and it believes this pause will not affect the rate of vaccines in the state.