After issuing a recommended 10-day pause, the United States Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease and Prevention announced on Friday that the single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine should resume use in the U.S.
On Saturday, Dr. Erica Pan, epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health, echoed these sentiments after viewing a report conducted by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which independently reviewed evidence concerning the safety of the J&J vaccine and actions by the FDA, drawing the same conclusions. The Workgroup is made up of a team of nationally-acclaimed scientists from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, with expertise in immunization and public health.
“After a thorough review of very rare adverse events following the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup supports the recommendation of the FDA and CDC to lift the pause on the vaccine. Clinics in California may begin administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine immediately as long as they provide appropriate educational materials to inform patients of the vaccine’s low risk of associated health effects and other available vaccine options,” said Pan in a press release.
“More than half of Californians 16 and older have received one of the three vaccines available, and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also an important tool in our fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially as more aggressive variants of the virus spread throughout the country.”
The CDC originally recommended the pause in administering J&J vaccines after several cases of a rare blood clotting disorder – thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) – were reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. The reported TTS cases affected women between the ages of 18 and 59 years old. A total of 15 cases were reported out of the 6.8 million doses administered throughout the country.
J&J vaccines will be put back in the rotation for most clinics starting this week, including clinics and mass vaccine events in San Joaquin County according to Tiffany Heyer, joint information officer for the county’s office of emergency services.
“We have some supply that was, you know, delivered and designated prior to the pause. And since then, we had to change up some of our clinics and change some of the events around so we could fulfill the need without having that vaccine available,” said Heyer. “So now that the state has released it, and the CDC has released it, we're following their guidelines: we have extra documentation to be provided to anybody that's getting it with the information about the health concerns.”
Healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente released a statement on its website that said it would be conducting its own investigation with its infectious disease physicians and other experts before resuming use of the vaccine.
A spokesperson from Sutter Health said that it will be resuming administration of the J&J vaccine this week.
“The J&J vaccine has been a very small portion of the total vaccine allocation Sutter Health has received from the state over the past few months, but it is an important tool in the fight against COVID-19,” they said in an email.
The news of the J&J vaccine being able to resume comes at an ideal time as San Joaquin County has transitioned its appointment registration over to the state’s MyTurn app and has also started prepping to offer walk-in COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
“Because we haven't seen the major demand that we did a couple weeks ago, we are starting to do walk-in events. So checking SJReady.org or signing up through MyTurn is the best way to find out,” said Heyer. “And MyTurn even has an 800 number that people can call. If they don't have access to the internet, they can get signed up that way or find out what events are closest to them.”
Heyer said that the county has an ample supply of the J&J Vaccine, along with Moderna and Pfizer, so residents can chose the vaccine they are most comfortable with. Additional training will be given to providers administering the J&J vaccine so that patients can be informed and have any questions about the vaccine addressed.
Heyer noted that the pause was implemented initially as a precaution and praised the CDC for taking the reports seriously.
“People are concerned, doing the research, finding out what's in it, finding out the process. The one good thing about Johnson & Johnson, it is just the one dose. So you don't have to follow up with it. You don't have to be concerned about being around in the next 21 to 28 days, or if there is going to be a supply of it. So it is just that one shot for people who are much more hesitant about having to get a vaccine,” said Heyer. “We look at the number of doses that have been administered across the country, and it was a very small amount (of TTS cases). And because CDC paused to investigate those few cases, we know that everyone is taking it seriously. So we have research available. We have the information available for people to take their time to research it. And fortunately, we do have the opportunity to have choices.”
Over 250,000 San Joaquin County residents have received J&J, Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
Heyer said that residents are encouraged to engage with SJready.org, which provides facts about COVID-19, vaccinations and vaccine events held in the county. Those interested in learning more about the J&J vaccine can view the fact sheet at www.janssencovid19vaccine.com.
• Contact Brianna Guillory at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-830-4229.