SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health is asking vaccine providers to temporarily pause the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine over concerns of potential blood clotting.
"The pause is to allow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) time to investigate reports of a rare, treatable type of blood clots experienced by a small number of who received the vaccine," a statement from UDOH says.
Nearly 77,000 J&J COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been administered in Utah, and UDOH has received no reports of blood clotting issues from Utah patients.
More than 6.8 million J&J doses have been administered in the United States, and six people have reported blood clots.
"Even though these cases have occurred in just one out of every one-million people who have received the vaccine, and even though it will slow our efforts to vaccinate Utah residents against COVID-19, calling for this pause is the right thing to do,” said Rich Saunders, UDOH executive director, in the statement. “It’s critical the public be confident in the COVID-19 vaccines, and in order to build and maintain that confidence reports like these must be taken seriously and fully investigated to determine what role, if any, the vaccine played.”
UDOH will work closely with the FDA and the CDC to determine the next steps in handling the J&J vaccine pause.
The vaccine coordinator for UDOH, Rich Lakin, talked to FOX 13 Tuesday. He said the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was particularly helpful in rural areas and in cases where people might be homebound.
Lakin noted two great advantages of the vaccine: it's single-dose efficacy, and the fact that it can be stored at normal refrigerated temperatures for three months.
"We used it for mobile units, we used it for individuals that had a difficult time going to mass clinics or their local health departments or pharmacies," Lakin said.
Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health and numerous health departments around the state are already complying with the recommendation.
"Our patients' safety and their well-being is our highest priority. We'll need to balance any intervention with the risk of contracting the coronavirus itself," said Dr. Richard Orlandi, University of Utah Health.
Intermountain Healthcare told FOX 13 the few patients who were scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine this week will be contacted for rescheduling.
"[An] abundance of caution is being used because we're under an emergency use authorization. The FDA and CDC are carefully monitoring this," said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, Intermountain Healthcare.
The Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are unaffected by Tuesday's announcement.