LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada stopped using Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines on Tuesday while federal authorities investigate reports of some people in other states experiencing serious reactions, including blood clots.
However, state and local health officials said the “pause” should not affect ongoing vaccination efforts, because only about 4% of the nearly 1.55 million COVID-19 vaccinations administered in Nevada to date have been Johnson & Johnson. Most have been Moderna and Pfizer.
“Our message today is that our campaign is based on multiple vaccines,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief medical officer at the Las Vegas-based Southern Nevada Health District. “Pfizer and Moderna, those vaccines have proved to be effective and also to be safe.”
James English, regional COVID-19 operations chief in Reno, northern Nevada’s most urban area, said stopping use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should not impact any vaccination plans in Washoe County.
However, officials also acknowledged a possible uptick in what Leguen called “hesitancy or being on the fence about deciding whether to take a vaccine or not.”
Holli Vrenon, 35, who got her Johnson & Johnson shot three or four weeks ago in Reno, said she called her brother who’s a doctor when she heard the latest news.
“It is kind of worrisome, like what’s going on? Did it come out too soon?” Vrenon said. She said she was “so sick” for about 12 hours after her shot “like the flu” and still has some pain in her arm, which her brother told her to monitor but not worry about too much.
“But obviously it worries you,” she said. “If they’re suspending it, obviously people are getting side effects.”
Meanwhile, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said late Tuesday he hopes each of the state’s 17 counties will be able to reopen at 100% capacity by June 1.
Earlier Tuesday when federal officials announced they were investigating rare but serious blood clots tied to the Johnson & Johnson shots, the health districts in Las Vegas and Reno switched to other vaccines all all area sites.
As of Monday, more than 65,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been administered in Nevada, said Shannon Litz, state Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman.
Most doses went to Clark County, the state’s population center and home to Las Vegas. Leguen said about 47,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine were administered, and more than 1.1 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna were given.
Of those Johnson & Johnson recipients, Leguen said fewer than 60 people reported reactions including pain at the injection site, fatigue or dizziness.
The Washoe County Health District has administered nearly 2,900 doses of Johnson & Johnson at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center to date and through its homebound program, district spokesman Scott Oxarart said Tuesday.
Many Johnson & Johnson doses in Nevada were earmarked for use in Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile shot clinics scheduled in some of the state's most remote rural areas and Native American reservations through May 3.
State vaccination chief Karissa Loper said Monday that 43,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson had been received and earmarked for the FEMA clinics set to run through May 1. She did not say how many doses had been administered to date.
A FEMA pop-up clinic proved popular in Silver Springs east of Carson City, where Lyon County Manager Jeff Page said 342 Johnson & Johnson vaccines were administered Monday.
No mobile clinics were planned Tuesday. But they are scheduled to resume on Wednesday using Pfizer doses, including one clinic in Gerlach in the high desert two hours north of Reno and one in Goldfield nearly three hours northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Gail Powell said.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require deeper refrigeration than the Johnson & Johnson product and two doses spaced up to four weeks apart. To date, plans for using FEMA mobile clinics had not included return trips.
Matt Reger, operations associate for Team Rubicon running the mobile units in Nevada, said they are working with state officials to determine the “best and safest course of action moving forward... to ensure full vaccination, including returning to the same communities for the second shot if necessary.”
Officials said no serious effects — such as severe headache, abdominal or leg pain, or shortness of breath — had been reported by people who received Johnson & Johnson shots in Nevada.
Officials say more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the United States. The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday they were investigating six cases, including one death, involving women between 18 and 48 who experienced unusual clots six to 13 days after vaccination.
Nevada health officials on Tuesday reported seven new COVID-19 deaths and 412 new cases since Monday, with the number of cases since the pandemic began nearing 309,000. The number of Nevadans who have died from the virus is reported at 5,339.
A two-week measure of the percentage of people tested and found to have COVID-19 ticked up to 5.2% statewide, topping the World Health Organization goal of 5% for relaxing coronavirus restrictions.
Sonner reported from Reno, Nevada.