SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Washington is immediately halting the use of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the coronavirus, following the guidance of the federal government regarding the appearance of rare side effects in a handful of women across the country, the state Department of Health said Tuesday.
“Use of that vaccine will be put on hold until we receive further recommendations from our federal partners about how best to move forward,” the agency said in a news release.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been little used in Washington, and is still considered safe and effective against COVID-19, state officials said.
“This action is taken out of extreme caution,” said Dr. Umair Shah, the state Secretary of Health.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were investigating six cases of unusual blood clots that occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. The clots were in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low blood platelets.
All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48, including one who died. The FDA commissioner said she expected the pause to last a matter of days.
About 149,000 doses of J&J vaccine have been administered in Washington so far, out of more than 4 million doses total. The state has no reason to believe any of the six patients who experienced blood clots were Washington residents, the agency said.
For those who got the vaccine more than a month ago, the risk of complications is very low, the agency said.
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, the agency said.
“It's very rare,” Shah said of the side effects. “We're confident this vaccine will be back in the mix.”
The J&J vaccine totals about 6% of the vaccines received in the state, officials said. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are far more common in Washington.