UDOH issues statement on administering Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Utah

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FILE – In this March 6, 2021, file photo, boxes stand next vials of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the pharmacy of National Jewish Hospital for distribution in Denver. U.S. health officials are weighing next steps as they investigate unusual blood clots in a small number of people given the vaccine — a one-dose shot that many countries hoped would help speed protection against the pandemic. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is following the direction of the FDA and CDC to lift the statewide pause on the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Officials say this action comes after a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

Effective immediately, COVID-19 vaccine providers in Utah may start administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to anyone 18 years of age or older.

The committee voted 10-4 in favor of the action after lengthy discussions weighing the benefits of getting as many people vaccinated as possible against the risks of very rare reactions.

Officials say out of more than 8 million people who had been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 15 people, all females, experienced a rare blood clotting condition, and three died.

Johnson & Johnson and regulators plan to add language to the product label warning of the potential for a rare blood-clot condition, according to officials.

For some women younger than age 50, health officials say there may be increased risks from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. These women may choose to speak with their health care provider before receiving the vaccine or choose another vaccine manufacturer. They may also choose to wait to be vaccinated until after next Tuesday when CDC releases further guidance.

CDC says they will release official guidance next Tuesday, but the full statement can be read here.

Health care providers administering the vaccine and vaccine recipients or caregivers are encouraged to review the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine and Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers, which have been revised to include information about the risk of this syndrome, which has happened in a very small number of people who have received the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

“For many Utahns, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the best vaccine,” says Governor Spencer Cox. “A single dose gives us the best chance of vaccinating people who are hard to reach by geography, those who are hard to reach because of personal schedules, those who might be less likely to return for a second shot, and even those who don’t like needles. We are relieved that these doses will rejoin our arsenal in the fight against COVID-19.” 

Before the pause, more than 86,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been administered in Utah. About 53,000 additional unused doses remain on the shelves of vaccine providers throughout the state.

“Utah residents should be confident in the process that led to the pause, and also the process that led to the lifting of the pause,” says Dr. Michelle Hofmann, deputy director of the UDOH. “This situation is evidence that the system that ensures vaccine safety in our country works. A potential issue was identified, investigated, and addressed in a manner that allows for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to again be safely administered in our state.”

Officials say Johnson & Johnson doses will start shipping again next week, and providers may now use any doses they have on hand.

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