Officials in Massachusetts and Maine said that administration of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine should resume Friday after federal health agencies lifted the pause of its use.
The vaccine will be used again in Vermont starting next week, health officials there said.
The pause on Johnson & Johnson's single-dose shot was in effect for 11 days due to the rare risk of blood clots. The government uncovered 15 vaccine recipients who developed a highly unusual kind of blood clot, out of nearly 8 million people given the J&J shot. All were women, most under age 50. Three died, and seven remain hospitalized.
But ultimately Friday, the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided that J&J's one-and-done vaccine is critical to fight the pandemic — and that the small clot risk could be handled with warnings to help younger women decide if they should use that shot or an alternative.
"Above all else, health and safety are at the forefront of our decisions," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. "Our vaccine safety systems are working. We identified exceptionally rare events – out of millions of doses" of the J&J shot and will continue to monitor them.
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In Massachusetts, the single-shot vaccine was to be used again effective immediately, the state's COVID-19 Response Command Center said in a statement Friday evening.
"Following the CDC's decision today to resume use of the – Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is notifying all providers they may resume administration of the J&J vaccine, effective immediately," a spokesperson said. "The federal government had recommended the pause out of an abundance of caution due to an extremely rare condition reported in a small number of individuals nationwide, and the Administration appreciates their careful review of this matter."
Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a joint statement Friday that the shots should be administered immediately, as well.
"Following the Committee's recommendation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized vaccine providers to resume use of the J&J vaccine," the statement read. "As a result, Maine recommends that providers resume use of the J&J vaccine effective immediately. This thorough scientific investigation demonstrates the strength of the U.S. vaccine safety system. We stand ready to work with providers to resume use of the J&J vaccine as part of our broader effort to vaccinate Maine people quickly and equitably."
In Vermont, the vaccine will be used again starting Monday.
"We are glad to have this supply of vaccine available again to protect Vermonters from the COVID-19 virus," Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement. "I appreciate the transparent effort made by the CDC and FDA in reviewing the facts during the pause. This demonstrates the commitment we all have to ensuring vaccine safety. I encourage all Vermonters who are eligible to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, with whatever vaccine is available and most appropriate."
"The benefits outweigh the risks based on all the available data," said Nursing Professor Laura Hayman at UMass Boston and UMass Medical School.
Hayman hopes the extremely rare blood clots won't dissuade people from getting vaccinated.
"I am worried about hesitancy in certain groups of individuals," she said. "We're working as hard as we can to get the message out of the importance of being vaccinated."