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CT Officials: Resume Use Of Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine

Ashley Andrews, pharmacist, puts Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in a syringe.
Yehyun Kim
Ashley Andrews, pharmacist, puts Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in a syringe.

State health officials have directed vaccine providers in Connecticut to resume use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot, after a decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lift a pause on the vaccine.

The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had urged states to stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 13 after six cases of rare blood clotting were reported among women who received the shot.

The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met Friday, 11 days into the pause, and recommended resuming use of the vaccine. By Friday, nine additional cases of the clotting condition had been reported, all in women. Three people have died and seven remained hospitalized; four of them were in intensive care units. Thirteen of the cases were in women ages 18 to 49, while two were in women 50 or older.

Within two hours of ACIP’s recommendation, the CDC and FDA ended their suggested pause on the immunization, though the agencies said they will add a warning label to highlight the risk of the rare clotting issue.

Nearly 8 million people had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States as of April 21.

“With the announcementfrom the CDC and the FDA, we have advised our vaccine providers to start offering the J&J vaccine again,” Deidre Gifford, Connecticut’s acting public health commissioner, said in a statement Saturday. “This pause and review will hopefully give people confidence that we take the safety of these vaccines very seriously and are committed to ensuring they meet the highest safety and effectiveness standards.”

“The CDC has determined that the known and potential benefits of the J&J vaccine outweigh the known and potential risks,” she added. “That can be clearly seen here in Connecticut, where our case and hospitalization rates and COVID deaths are declining as our vaccinations increase.”

In an email to medical providers late Friday, state health officials said those administering vaccines can use the supply of Johnson & Johnson shots “that is in inventory at this time.” Connecticut has 136,000 J&J vaccines in reserve.

Within the next week, providers will be able to request additional supply, they said.

“Providers may place orders for J&J in their order that is due this Tuesday for orders that will arrive on May 3,” health department officials wrote in the memo on Friday.

The mobile unit from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that is in the midst of a two-month tour of Connecticut will continue to use the Pfizer vaccine “for the foreseeable future,” officials said, and a fleet of mobile vans operated through the state health department will keep offering Pfizer and Moderna shots. Officials did not say why the mobile units would continue with the two-dose vaccines.

As of Thursday, more than 60 percent of Connecticut residents 16 and older – or about 1.7 million people – had received their first dose, and more than half of those eligible – about 1.1 million people – had been fully vaccinated.

Gov. Ned Lamont said demand has been lessening. Mobile vaccination clinics that used to give 140 doses in a day are now administering 15 doses daily. Lamont has encouraged employers and labor leaders to incentivize workers to get vaccinated, including offering paid time off, free lunches or gift cards.

A spokesman for the state Department of Correction said last week that if use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine resumed in Connecticut, officials would begin using it at the intake facilities. The agency had been planning on administering the single-shot J&J to many of those who are held pretrial in state jails, accelerating the rollout in correctional centers. Because turnover in the jails is higher than in prisons, a single shot would be less complicated than scheduling follow-up inoculations weeks after the first doses, possibly after people had already been released, officials said.

More than 4,360 people in Connecticut prisons and jails – less than half of all people in state correctional facilities – had been vaccinated as of April 21.

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