PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Unlike its neighboring states, Rhode Island has no immediate plans to resume use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after federal health officials ended an 11-day pause on Friday.
R.I. Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said Saturday the state will wait until next week to make a decision, adding Rhode Island has enough vaccine doses currently available that operations will not be disrupted without it.
“We only have a limited amount of Johnston & Johnson vaccine on-hand right now, and we would not expect another shipment for two or three weeks anyway,” Wendelken said. “On top of that, we have been getting more Moderna and Pfizer vaccine. For those reasons, this pause is not significantly impacting our current operations.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA ended a pause that began April 13 when federal health officials decided to investigate six out of nearly 7 million J&J vaccine recipients who reported severe and unusual blood clots. In an announcement Friday, federal regulators said use could resume with an updated label that warned of blood-clot risks.
Prior to the announcement, Rhode Island medical director Dr. James McDonald told 12 News the state would make an independent decision about whether to proceed with the vaccine regardless.
“Rhode Island is going to look at the data, look at the recommendations and make a customized recommendation for you, because we’re your doctor, Rhode Island, and we need to make sure what we have is good for you,” he said.
The decision to wait differs from Massachusetts and Connecticut, where state health officials almost immediately directed their vaccinating partners to resume use of the single-dose regimen.
In Massachusetts, the state’s COVID-19 response team spokesperson Kate Reilly on Friday said the decision followed federal guidelines.
“The federal government had recommended the pause out of an abundance of caution due to an extremely rare condition reported in a small number of individuals nationwide, and the administration appreciates their careful review of this matter,” Reilly said in a statement.
In Connecticut, state health officials likewise directed partners to resume J&J use, as the single-dose vaccine has proven critical to the state’s strategy of inoculating harder-to-reach communities, according to a report in the Hartford Courant.
Leading up to the April 13 pause, Rhode Island had administered about 37,400 doses of the J&J vaccine, accounting for about 5% of total doses and 12% of people fully vaccinated at the time.
Daily inoculations on average have slowed slightly since then, but as Target 12 reported last week there are also signs that vaccine demand is slowing. Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, highlighted similar trends nationwide.
“Daily U.S. vaccinations have peaked,” he tweeted Friday. “Why? Vaccine avid folks have gotten their shot. Its now the ground game.”
Jha, who earlier this month called the prolonged pause of the J&J vaccine “a mistake,” lauded the federal government’s decision to end it Friday.
“This is obviously the right answer,” he tweeted. “I think adding a warning is perfectly fine — adds transparency to system. But this is obviously a superb vaccine — safe and effective and unpausing, distributing it widely will save lives.”
Kim Kalunian and Sarah Doiron contributed to this report.