ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Department of Health has directed all COVID-19 vaccine providers in the state to pause the administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
The order comes after the FDA and CDC on Tuesday recommended a temporary halt following the emergence of a rare and severe blood clotting in 6 recipients out of nearly 7 million.
"I’d like to stress these events appear to be extremely rare however COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government and we take all reports of adverse events following vaccination very seriously," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, Acting FDA Commissioner.
All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, with symptoms occurring 6 to 13 days after vaccination. One woman died and a second woman has been hospitalized in critical condition.
Gov. Larry Hogan said this pause doesn’t cause any major impacts to vaccine distribution.
"It hasn’t really had a dramatic impact on us but it’s something we’re watching very carefully we want to make sure everyone is safe," said Hogan.
Hogan said he was already counting on not getting any Johnson & Johnson doses this week, so no state-facilitated appointments have been impacted.
However, FEMA did have to shut down their mobile units for today and the state discontinued the walk up line at Hagerstown mass vaccination site to move those doses to people who already had appointments, until the Maryland Department of Health can confirm sufficient supplies of vaccine and reopen walk-ups. Walk-ups will also be paused at the Wicomico site until MDH can confirm sufficient supplies of vaccine. The Regency Furniture Stadium mass vax site had 30 J&J appointments Tuesday that were switched to Pfizer.
"I would imagine some private contractor, hospitals or pharmacies or doctors offices might have to cancel a few peoples appointments but we can handle them at our mass vaccination sites," said Hogan.
Nearly 7 million doses of the J & J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., a small fraction of the amount of total doses. Officials said the majority of people vaccinated have received either Pfizer or Moderna and this reaction has not been detected.
If you received the J&J vaccine and develop a severe headache, abdominal or leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after being vaccinated, contact your health care provider.
At the same time, providers are asked to report any such events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
In the meantime providers should maintain their supplies of Johnson & Johnson vaccines in a manner that prevents wastage.
The news comes amid a nationwide slowdown in J&J vaccination shipments.
In Baltimore, Johnson & Johnson installed a new leadership team to oversee all aspects of production and manufacturing at the Emergent BioSolutions facility, after they accidentally ruined 15 million doses by conflating the ingredients several weeks ago.
The mix-up forced regulators to delay authorizing the plant’s production line.
"This announcement will not have a significant impact on our vaccination plan: Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes up less than 5 percent of the recorded shots in arms in the United States to date," said Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. "Based on actions taken by the President earlier this year, the United States has secured enough Pfizer and Moderna doses for 300 million Americans."
The Baltimore City Health Department echoed that.
"This pause will not significantly impact our local vaccination operations. The Baltimore City Health Department is utilizing the Moderna vaccine at our Baltimore City Community College vaccination clinic, as well as at our mobile vaccination clinics. We will continue to provide the Moderna vaccines to residents, as we await more details regarding the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. To date, the Baltimore City Health Department has received 1400 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, making up approximately 3% of our first dose vaccination supply."
The Hagerstown Mass Vaccination site has said they will switch to Pfizer and honor all Tuesday appointments.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday to review these cases.