PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona health officials urged a halt Tuesday to the administering of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, following reports it could lead to rare but potentially dangerous blood clots.
In a news release, the state Department of Public Health Services said it was yielding to the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
The federal agencies called for a pause in using the vaccine until an investigation could be conducted into six cases where clots developed. The unusual clots have occurred 6 to 13 days post-vaccination.
The FDA commissioner said she expected the pause to last a matter of days.
The clots were in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets, the fragments in blood that normally form clots. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48. One person died.
More than 226,000 doses of the J&J vaccine have been allocated to Arizona. Roughly 122,000 have been given, according to state health officials.
One of those doses went to Mathias Bildhauer, 56, of Phoenix. He was vaccinated Thursday at Glendale Community College. Other than being unable to sleep that night, Bildhauer said he felt fine. But if the latest warning had come out before then, he's not sure he would have gone through with his appointment.
“To be honest, I probably would have waited a week or two to see how it shakes out,” Bildhauer said.
Still, he isn't going to spend time worrying about a potential health crisis.
“I'll play the odds and take it day by day," Bildhauer said. “I don’t have any regret.”
Public health officials in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, will also press the pause button in wake of the new recommendations. The county hopes to substitute another vaccine at planned vaccination events, Ron Coleman, a county spokesman, said.
Arizona State University announced it will temporarily stop offering the vaccine at its Health Services building on the Tempe campus.
In Pima County, the Moderna vaccine will be given in place of the J&J one. County health officials say around 24,600 doses of the J&J vaccine have been issued since early March — mainly through mobile vaccine clinics. There have been no reports of any severe reactions.
Vaccination plans at some jails will be revised or paused. The agency that provides health care to inmates in Maricopa County jails has paused its use of the vaccine. Most of the more than 1,500 Maricopa County jail inmates who have been vaccinated have received the J&J vaccine, with the rest getting the Moderna vaccine.
Coconino County said it is canceling a vaccine clinic this week in Flagstaff that was set to administer the J&J vaccine.
A Graham County jail commander confirmed the county health department will be offering other vaccines soon. Five inmates there received the J&J vaccine.
In Yavapai County, a plan to give the J&J vaccine to inmates has been put on hold. Mohave County hasn’t yet started offering vaccines to inmates. In Gila County, 54 inmates have gotten the two-shot Moderna vaccine, the only one offered to them.
The federal Indian Health Service has opted to suspend distribution of the vaccine as well. The agency said it doesn't expect vaccination plans to be significantly affected. The J&J vaccine makes up roughly 1.5% percent of the nearly 1.1 million shots the agency has administered. There have been no reports of anyone experiencing blood clots or other severe reactions.
Anyone who has an appointment to get the J&J vaccine will have to find an appointment to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. According to the state, health care providers may still give the J&J vaccine if they feel it is appropriate after discussing the matter with the patient.
Meanwhile, Arizona health officials also reported Tuesday another 610 confirmed cases and 19 related deaths. Hospitalizations because of COVID-19 in the state went up slightly from the previous day to 565. The number of people in ICUs remained about the same at 150.
Since the pandemic, Arizona has seen 850,846 cases and 17,105 deaths in total. ___ Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud contributed to this report.