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W.Va. follows CDC in pausing J&J vaccine

CHARLESTON — Use of Johnson and Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine will be paused in West Virginia until a federal review takes place, Gov. Jim Justice announced Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration issued a statement Tuesday morning announcing the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices would meet today to review a handful of blood clot cases linked to the vaccine.

According to the CDC and FDA, six women between 18 and 48 developed a rare kind of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis.

The clots showed up between six and 13 days after the vaccine was administered. These rare kinds of blood clots require alternative treatments compared with normal blood clots treated with anticoagulants.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said that use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine can resume once the review is completed.

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Schuchat and Marks said. “This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot. Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”

All distribution of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in West Virginia will be paused, Justice said. Any clinics scheduled to use the Johnson and Johnson vaccine would receive doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna two-dose vaccines as supplies allow.

“The safety of West Virginians is always our first and foremost priority,” Justice said in a statement. “This pause will not impact our ability to continue vaccinating West Virginians, and is exactly the reason why we stood up our Joint Interagency Task Force led by our West Virginia National Guard. They were absolutely ready for this scenario.”

A spokesperson for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said the number of West Virginians with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was not immediately available, but the state Joint Interagency Task Force for vaccine distribution was working to verify the number. DHHR also said it has received no reports of any adverse blood-clotting events to date.

According to the state Coronavirus Dashboard, more than one-fourth of the state’s 1.79 million residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday. More than 37 percent of the state’s population has at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. More than 1.1 million total doses have been administered since Dec. 14, 2020.

According to the latest numbers from the CDC, nearly 7 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S. Despite production setbacks, Johnson and Johnson promised to produce 100 million doses by June.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both mRNA vaccines, require two doses spread out over weeks and require extremely cold temperatures for storage and transport. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine requires one dose and can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures for longer periods of time, making the shot ideal for use in hard-to-reach rural communities, people unable to leave their homes or the homeless.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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