RI temporarily halts use of J&J vaccine; 454 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths reported

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Health announced that the state will pause administration of the J&J vaccine as federal partners continue to gather more information.

Tuesday morning the FDA and CDC issued a joint statement recommending the pause of the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as they investigate six U.S. cases of a rare, but severe blood clot.

The FDA says the cases were reported in women between the ages of 18 to 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after receiving the vaccine. One woman died, while another is hospitalized in critical condition, according to health officials.

In a media briefing Tuesday morning, the FDA said the pause is expected to last “a matter of days.”

Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said the statistical chance of these side-effects is roughly one in a million. Around 31,000 of the shots administered in Rhode Island were Johnson & Johnson, and none of the side effects have been reported.

Check for symptoms of severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath if you’ve had the shot in the past month. If the problem lingers, officials say to contact your doctor.

“It’s very rare, the time frame of 6 to 13 days after vaccination makes it such that if you are significantly past that, more than a month ago of getting vaccinated, your risk is extremely low,” Alexander-Scott said.

“If you have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the past three weeks your risk is also very low,” she added.

The Mass. Department of Public Health also temporarily halted the use of the vaccine.

The Health Department released 7,600 vaccine appointments Tuesday morning for Pfizer and Moderna for later in the week at state-run mass vaccination sites and regional clinics.

No J&J appointments were scheduled to be released, however, RIDOH said it was directing vaccinators that had made J&J previously scheduled appointments to not administer those doses.

“No information reported to RIDOH has indicated that Johnson & Johnson vaccine represents a health or safety concern,” RIDOH spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said. “However, RIDOH is taking this step in alignment with federal partners.”

Lifespan, the state’s largest hospital network, said it would also be following the recommendation of pausing the use of J&J’s vaccine until further notice.

Listen to the full FDA media call below:

Lifespan spokesperson Kathleen Hart said the hospital group has largely been using the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in its vaccination clinics, with less than 5% of patients receiving the J&J COVID-19 vaccine.

“We understand that anyone who received this vaccine may have concerns and encourage them to discuss these with their physician,” Hart said.

Tuesday morning’s news regarding J&J came less than half an hour before a regularly scheduled meeting of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee.

The subcommittee said despite the news from J&J, it was previously aware of a drop in supply of the single-dose shot in the week ahead, but the state is still on track to make everyone 16 and older eligible on April 19.

Alexander-Scott says the state wants to ensure the safety applies to the vast majority of individuals that receive the vaccine.

“And that’s certainly what we have experienced thus far with all three of the vaccines, including the extremely low percentage of breakthrough cases,” Alexander-Scott said.

“We would certainly welcome from this subcommittee any additional expressions of concern, but when we have the vast majority of vaccinations well tolerated and as extremely effective as they are in the midst of a pandemic that’s saving lives and keeping people out of the hospital,” Alexander-Scott continued. “That is the overall measure of safety that we are looking to achieve, knowing that it’s important to keep folks safe and alive and out of the hospital as well with the effectiveness of the vaccine.”

As of Sunday, more than 298,000 Rhode Islanders have been fully vaccinated.

Due to a network issue, new data was not released on Monday, but state health officials released it Tuesday evening.

Since Friday, three Rhode Islanders have died of COVID-19, 137 people have been hospitalized and 454 have tested positive.

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