A potential “one-in-a-million” risk of blood clots has led states, including Hawaii, to discontinue use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on the recommendation of federal health officials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a statement late Monday recommending that states postpone Johnson & Johnson shots after finding six cases of rare bleeding disorder in women in the Ages 18 to 48 who had received the shot a week to two weeks earlier had been noted.
These six cases affected more than 6.8 million people who have received the Johnson & Johnson shot to date in the United States. One of the women died and another is still in critical condition, federal health officials said Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, one of the vaccines is currently being removed from our toolkit,” said Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, which is involved in overseeing the adoption of vaccines in hospitals and clinics in the islands.
“It’s a very low incidence, about one in a million,” said Raethel. “The vaccine is still safe, but there is this potential risk and it is too early to know if it is linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There is currently a correlation. We just don’t know if it’s a cause. “
Dr. Health Department director Libby Char said Hawaii remains on track to allow all residents to be eligible to vaccinate by April 19. People aged 16 and over are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been approved for use in people aged 18 and over.
Char said 17,000 Johnson & Johnson shots have been administered in Hawaii since the first shipment arrived on March 3rd. The state has received a total of 47,000 cans and will hold the remaining 30,000 in stock pending further federal instructions, she said.
Deliveries of the vaccine have already been drastically reduced across the country after a mistake at a Baltimore manufacturing facility ruined 15 million doses. Hawaii should receive 2,600 more doses from the federal authorities this week, a much lower allocation than in previous weeks.
“This is going to be a bit of a setback, but we haven’t received that much from Johnson & Johnson,” she told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It won’t affect us very much.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was offered in various clinics across the state, including some that were specifically done for the Department of Education and correctional facilities, she said.
The state had also planned to provide Johnson & Johnson vaccines to new residents of long-term care facilities, but this is now being put on hold, according to Raethel.
Both Char and Raethel said no Hawaii patients reported any of the symptoms associated with the rare blood clots.
The blood clot disorder is known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and requires special treatment. A typical blood clot drug can be harmful. It has occurred in women who also had low platelet counts for a number of reasons, including: B. a weakened immune system or certain medications.
“When we saw this pattern and realized that treatment needed to be individualized for this condition, it was of the utmost importance for us to speak,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the CDC, in a press conference held Tuesday.
Symptoms the women experienced included a severe headache, stomach ache, leg pain, or shortness of breath after getting the shot, Raethel said.
“If someone has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, male or female, and they experience symptoms, they should contact their doctor immediately,” said Raethel. “There is a treatment for anyone who has these symptoms.”
Vaccination clinics that should be giving Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will either offer an alternative or a new appointment, according to the Department of Health.
Many vaccine appointments are still open at local pharmacies, including Longs, Walgreens, and Safeway. These were taken under contract by the federal government and have received an increased offer in the last few weeks.
The demand will probably continue to exceed the supply, said Raethel. Even if the eligibility expands, people are unlikely to get an appointment until after April 19th.
On Monday, Oahu residents aged 50 and over were added to the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility pool. All other Hawaiian counties are open to those ages 16 and older.
A list of vaccine distribution clinics is available online.
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