Pa., Chesco pause use of J&J COVID vaccine

Following a recommendation from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), both the state of Pennsylvania and Chester County announced Tuesday that their respective health departments would pause vaccinations using the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, pending a study of a rare but dangerous blood clotting issue that may be related to the vaccine.

The pause does not impact either the Pfizer or Moderna two shot regimen — which have been the vast majority of vaccinations in the county, the state and nationally.

Out of some 6.8 million injections, six cases of unusual blood clots were seen in patients getting the J&J shot — all women between 18 and 48 years of age. The CDC is convening an emergency meeting today (Wednesday) to look deeper into the issue and to determine whether additional guidelines will be needed.

Although the number of people potentially impacted appears small, officials said it was important to note federal health officials are taking great care in making sure the vaccine is both safe and effective.

“While this announcement is challenging, it highlights the vaccine evaluation process,” Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Alison Beam said in a statement. “The CDC and the FDA are closely monitoring vaccines for safety and effectiveness, and if there is a cause for concern, they will take action because safety is paramount. This protocol should give all Pennsylvanians confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, and individuals should proceed with getting vaccinated as soon as possible to fight the virus, particularly as our case counts rise.”

Likewise, the Chester County Health Department is pausing use of the J&J vaccine.

The Chester County Health Department’s clinic at the Brandywine YMCA in Coatesville and the evening clinic at the Government Services Center in West Chester are the only clinics that were scheduled to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of Tuesday.

From now through April 20, all Chester County Health Department vaccine clinics will be administering the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and all appointments originally scheduled for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be replaced by the Moderna vaccine.

“Everyone who was scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the coming week either has been, or will be offered the Moderna vaccine instead,” said Chester County Health Department Director Jeanne Franklin.

“We are basing this on the decision to stop administering the J&J vaccine until April 20.  Should there be an extension to that date, we will re-evaluate, depending on the amount of Moderna and Pfizer vaccine we receive in the coming week.”

The Chester County Health Department has administered 7,070 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and was scheduled to administer a further 574 doses on Tuesday when the pause was issued.

All of the Chester County Health Department clinics will remain open this week.  These are:

  • The Chester County Government Services Center in West Chester
  • West Chester University’s Sturzebecker Health Sciences Center
  • Jennersville YMCA
  • Kimberton Fire Company
  • Brandywine YMCA in Coatesville
  • The Phoenixville Senior Center, the Brandywine Valley Active Aging Center (Coatesville) and the Oxford Area Senior Center.

The Chester County Health Department notes that anyone who has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and develops severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of their vaccination should contact their health care provider. For more information, find the CDC/FDA statement here.

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