MONTPELIER — State officials say appointments for the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine have been canceled for the week after six people in the United States developed blood clots out of nearly 7 million doses administered.
Gov. Phil Scott’s regular Tuesday news conference was delayed an hour so senior members of his administration could sit in on a call with other governors and the White House about the pandemic response. One of the main focuses of that call was the recent announcement that six women had developed blood clots after receiving the single-dose vaccine.
Scott said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recommended pausing the use of that vaccine. He said this recommendation “was made out of an abundance of caution due to extremely rare blood clots found in six cases out of the 6.8 million people who have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson.”
He said the vaccine, for the most part, has been shown to be safe and effective. The governor received that vaccine last week, and he said he was happy to get it.
He said federal agencies will meet and discuss what recommendations should be given to vaccine providers. Health experts are investigating the six cases to get to the bottom of the blood-clotting issue.
“They emphasized these incidents are extremely rare and this pause is likely to be a matter of days, not weeks,” Scott said.
Mike Smith, secretary of the state Agency of Human Services, said about 2,000 vaccine appointments had to be canceled Tuesday because they involved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Smith said about another 2,000 appointments through the end of the week have also been canceled. He said those that signed up for that vaccine will be offered the alternative vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna which require two shots, weeks apart, for maximum efficacy. He said residents can opt to wait and get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine once the pause is lifted.
“Right now, it is too early to assess what impact this will have on our longer-term vaccination strategy,” he said.
The governor and President Joe Biden have chosen July 4 as the day they want to get things back to as close to normal as possible, but that timeline depended on vaccine supply.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said this blood clotting issue has been found in about one in 1 million people. Levine compared that to the chances of dying from the coronavirus which he said is about one in 500.
He said the six cases are all women, ranging in age from 16 to 48. He said their symptoms began six to 13 days after receiving the vaccine.
Levine said all of the symptoms reported by Vermonters who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have so far been benign or not serious.
“We have not seen any of these cases of blood clots in Vermont,” he said.
According to the state’s vaccine dashboard, nearly 49% of the state’s eligible population has received at least one dose of one of the vaccines. Nearly 32% have been fully vaccinated.
Those 30 years old and older were allowed to sign up for vaccine appointments Monday. Smith said over 15,000 people in that group have signed up.