Arizona's Family is reaching out to pharmacies and facilities offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to see what their plans are. We will update this story as we learn more.
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Arizona is following the lead of the federal government after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration are recommending that the U.S. pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine after blood clots were reported in six women. More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the country.
ADHS says they will be pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after the recommendations from the CDC and FDA. They say about 226,300 doses of the J&J vaccine have been allocated in Arizona and about 122,000 have been administered.
“While the occurrence of this rare blood clot are extremely rare compared to the number of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered nationwide, we are following the guidance of the CDC and FDA out of an abundance of caution and we will continue to work with our federal and statewide partners about the status of the vaccine,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director. “The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and is one of the best tools we have to reduce the spread of the disease in Arizona. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Anyone who has an appointment to get the J&J vaccine will have to find an appointment to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. According to the state, health care providers may still give the J&J vaccine if they feel it is appropriate after discussing the matter with the patient.
Katrina Morgan, who is the COO for NOAH clinics around the Valley, said their clinics have been left with 500 doses of Johnson & Johnson they cannot use right now, but are rescheduling people for the Moderna shot. While they haven't received any appointment cancellations yet, Morgan says people are excited to start receiving the Moderna vaccine at their locations.
"Vaccine hesitancy is real. Barriers are real, and in our community we do a lot of things to fight all the barriers. So this, an additional barrier, is something that we always have to take a deep breath and say, 'Ok how are we going to fight this one,'" Morgan said. "We are erring on the side of caution. That we're not going to risk. That we are going to follow guidance from the CDC and FDA. And we are going to make sure we are offering safe and effective care for all of our patients."
The Maricopa County Department of Public Health Administration echoed ADHS and said it will also pause administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"The primary goal is to understand all of the information available and to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for this rare adverse event and can recognize and manage this unique type of blood clot. It is important for the public to know that this rare blood clot has not been reported following receipt of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines," officials said in a statement.
The Mohave County Health Department is also putting a pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution.
“The Mohave County Department of Public Health will await the outcome of the investigation. Until the pause is lifted, we will only receive doses of the Moderna vaccine,” said Mohave County Health Director Denise Burley.
The Navajo Nation also said on Tuesday it would put administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on hold. President Jonathan Nez said the tribe had given out about 4,000 doses and there had been no major side effects. He added the move won't impact the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Arizona State University announced it will temporarily stop offering the vaccine at its Health Services building on the Tempe campus.
In Pima County, the Moderna vaccine will be given in place of the J&J one. County health officials say around 24,600 doses of the J&J vaccine have been issued since early March — mainly through mobile vaccine clinics. There have been no reports of any severe reactions.
Vaccination plans at some jails will be revised or paused. The agency that provides health care to inmates in Maricopa County jails has paused its use of the vaccine. Most of the more than 1,500 Maricopa County jail inmates who have been vaccinated have received the J&J vaccine, with the rest getting the Moderna vaccine.
Coconino County said it is canceling a vaccine clinic this week in Flagstaff that was set to administer the J&J vaccine.
A Graham County jail commander confirmed the county health department will be offering other vaccines soon. Five inmates there received the J&J vaccine.
The FDA commissioner said she expected the pause to last a matter of days. The clots were in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets, the fragments in blood that normally form clots. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48. One person died.
The fact that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just a single dose has made it a popular option, with people seeking it out. For example, when it came to vaccine brands, Tim Treguboff once thought Johnson & Johnson was his number one pick. "I was specifically seeking out that vaccine just for the ease of one and done," said Treguboff. He got the shot April 1, only to learn about the potential complications Tuesday. "I hope it doesn't happen to me," said Treguboff. "...I wouldn't have gotten The Johnson & Johnson. I would have gotten Moderna or Pfizer."
But so far, he hasn't had any severe side effects. "It's been almost two weeks now, and I haven't had anything arise yet," said Treguboff. "I'll definitely be monitoring myself a little more."
Doctor Murtaza Akhter said the potential complication is extremely rare, but he understands why the news might feel scary for people. "I wouldn't get panicked about it if you've had the vaccine," said Akhter. "As a matter of fact, my own brother was getting it a couple days ago, and myself, I'll be honest, because I'm a human, I began thinking, 'Hmm... should he just wait?'"
Whether you got vaccinated or not, Dr. Akhter said it's always a good idea to monitor blood clot symptoms. "For example, severe shortness of breath, significant chest pain or leg pain, severe headache, those would be things to look out for," said Akhter.
What pharmacies and clinics are doing in Arizona:
- Albertson's Safeway says they have paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Patients who are scheduled for one will be notified that their appointment will be canceled and will be able to reschedule for either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
- CVS Health says they will be immediately pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. CVS says they will be emailing all customers who have a scheduled appointment for the J&J vaccine at one of their pharmacies to let them know their appointment will be canceled and to allow them to reschedule.
- Fry's says it will stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for now and will offer patients either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. "If the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is not available, Kroger will work with the patient to reschedule their vaccination appointment," the pharmacy said in a statement.
- Coolidge Clinic in Pinal County is a Johnson & Johnson only vaccine clinic so in light of the FDA and CDC's new guidance, they have cancelled their clinic for today. Pinal County also says if you have a J&J vaccine appointment scheduled with any provider in the county to call them before going.
- Peoria Community Center says their clinics for a few days will be swapping out the J&J with the Pfizer vaccine as an option.
- Bashas', which is part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, says it is "ceasing everything we have been doing until we get further guidance from the CDC. We are continuing to try and source other vaccines through some third party partnerships in the meantime."
- Walmart says it "immediately paused" its use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine "until the federal government completes a thorough review." If you have an appointment at a Walmart pharmacy, you will get a different vaccine if one is available. If no other vaccine is available, your appointment will be canceled and rescheduled "for a later date once supply allows."
- Embry Health will be pulling the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines from all of their testing sites until further notice from the FDA and CDC.
If you have an appointment to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, please check with your provider.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to remove Grand Canyon University as a distributor of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. GCU has offered the Pfizer vaccine since it opened.