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State pauses J&J vaccine

Out of an abundance of caution, the Alabama Department of Public Health has asked all health care providers in the state to pause administering the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine due to an investigation of reports of potentially dangerous blood clots associated with the vaccine.

To date, 329 Alabama health care providers have received J&J COVID-19 vaccine, about one-third of the state’s vaccine providers. Of the 159,000 J&J doses received, 71,297 doses of J&J vaccine have been administered in Alabama. No known instances of a rare and severe type of blood clot have been reported in Alabama residents to date.

As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been administered in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia).

The CDC reported that all six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered. Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.

CDC announced that it will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. Until that process is complete, a pause in the use of this vaccine was recommended out of an abundance of caution.

According to CDC, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare at this time. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.

From Governor Kay Ivey: “COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for Alabama. It is important to know that the adverse effects potentially stemming from the Johnson & Johnson shot have been extremely rare in the country, but out of an abundance of caution, Alabama is temporarily pausing these shots until we know more. I commend Dr. Harris for taking this swift step in our state so that we can continue moving forward, getting shots in the arms and putting COVID-19 behind us once and for all.”