Colorado pauses use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after FDA recommendation


Boxes of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine sit in a refrigerator at a pop up vaccinations site the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in the Staten Island borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

DENVER — Colorado is temporarily pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine based on a recommendation from federal agencies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that they are recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.

Based on this recommendation, Colorado’s state health department said they are requiring providers to stop administration of the vaccine until additional information becomes available.

Dr. Eric France, Chief Medical Officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said none of the six cases being investigated occurred in Colorado.

The announcement comes nearly a week after the mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park was closed when 11 people experienced adverse reactions following Johnson & Johnson shots. State health officials said these reactions were unrelated to the clots being investigated by the CDC and FDA.

The state said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes up only a small part of Colorado’s weekly vaccine allocation. This week, for example, the state’s Johnson & Johnson allocation is 9,700, compared to nearly 280,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna the state expects to receive this week. Most vaccine clinics will not be significantly affected. In El Paso County, about 3% of vaccine doses administered have been J&J, according to the county health department.

CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat said authorities have not seen similar clots after use of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and people should continue to get vaccinated with those shots.

What to do if you have a J&J vaccine appointment

Anyone scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will either receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead, or the vaccine provider will contact them to reschedule their appointment.

Gov. Jared Polis said anyone who has a J&J vaccine appointment scheduled within the next few days should contact the provider. Most providers will offer the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead, according to Polis. However, people who specifically want the J&J vaccine will likely have to reschedule their appointments.

The state’s mobile vaccination buses, which have been administering only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, are canceled Tuesday and Wednesday.

Centura Health, one of the state’s largest vaccine providers, had already paused use of the J&J vaccine at its three drive-up mass vaccination clinics. They made that decision Friday, after 11 people experienced adverse reactions at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Centura said Tuesday that it will now pause use of the vaccine at all of its care sites.

What to do if you received the J&J vaccine

More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been given in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.

The state health department said people who received the J&J vaccine more than a month ago are at very low risk of serious side effects. According to federal agencies, the six blood clot cases under investigation occurred six to 13 days after vaccination.

Anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last three weeks and who develops severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath should contact their healthcare provider or call 911. These symptoms are different from the flu-like symptoms people may experience after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Centura Health said to date, they have administered 13,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine statewide. That includes 7,800 at the Broadmoor World Arena drive-up clinic in Colorado Springs and 6,600 at Dick’s Sporting Good’s Park in Commerce City. No Johnson & Johnson vaccine was administered at the drive-up clinic at the state fairgrounds in Pueblo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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